Audi suspends Abt from Formula E team after disqualification from virtual race

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Audi has suspended Daniel Abt from its Formula E team following his disqualification from a charity virtual race last weekend.

Abt was discovered to have arranged for a professional simracer to drive his car instead of him during the Formula E Race at Home round on Saturday. Abt’s car, carrying Audi’s corporate branding and sponsors, placed third in the race before he was disqualified.

“Daniel Abt did not drive his car in qualifying and the race at the fifth event of the Race at Home Challenge on May 23 himself, but let a professional sim-racer do so,” said Audi in a statement. “He directly apologised for this on the following day and accepted the disqualification.

“Integrity, transparency and consistent compliance with applicable rules are top priorities for Audi – this applies to all activities the brand is involved in without exception. For this reason, Audi Sport has decided to suspend Daniel Abt with immediate effect.”

Abt has driven for the Abt-backed Audi team, alongside team mate Lucas di Grassi, in every race since the Formula E championship began in 2014. He has won twice for them, at Mexico City and Berlin in the 2017-18 season.

Following his disqualification, Abt apologised for his actions and agreed to make a €10,000 contribution to charity.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Audi suspends Abt from Formula E team after disqualification from virtual race”

  1. Probably best to let him go as he doesn’t seem smart enough to be champion anyway.

    1. He is in that team because of his family name.

      1. Chaitanya Don’t care.

  2. I don’t understand abt’s catastrophic lapse in judgment. Why? In what universe was it going to be worth it? If he didn’t want to do the race he could have just withdrawn with illness or something…

  3. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    26th May 2020, 12:35

    Still don’t understand why he did it. Was he afraid of being beaten? Was he just not bothered and didn’t want to do it? Either way it doesn’t paint him in a good light given the rest of the FE grid seem to be respecting this and trying to put on a good show. At best it makes him look apathetic and at worst a cheater.

    Then again I feel he was only at that team for his name. He never seemed to be able to get the results that his team-mates could. Maybe they should offer his seat to the guy he got to take his place? He seemed to do quite well.

    1. @rocketpanda the suggestion is that Abt is likely to be replaced on a permanent basis – he was only on a 12 month contract, and there are signs that Audi might decline to renew his contract when it expires.

      The names which are being suggested as possible replacements are Kelvin van der Linde and Mattia Drudi, GT3 drivers who have previously tested Audi’s Formula E car.

  4. An apt penalty.

    1. But what’s a GUB? [/obscure Woody Allen reference]

    2. Argh. Also, well done.

  5. I wonder if the FE team would be changes from Abt Sportsline to one of the Audi partners..?? (EKS, WRT or Rosberg)

  6. What an odd way to lose your job. Whichever way you look at it, he doesn’t have much of defense. ‘It’s just a game’ doesn’t really work as people are working to make this a serious event in the pandemic. ‘I wanted to win’ doesn’t work, for obvious reasons based on how competitions work. He just seems a bit daft to be honest, he made a mistake, lets not torture the guy, just an weird lapse of judgement.

    If the pro esports guy had won (face masked by equipment), and Stoffel hadn’t said anything, would he taken the plaudits?

    1. Jean-Eric Vergne questioned it too. When it showed the podium shot of the three drivers, Abt’s screen was blacked out. There was also an object that obscured the drivers face anytime they went to a shot of his sim rig.

      1. @dragon86 I was wondering how everyone else was so sure that it wasn’t him driving. Now that you mention his screen was blacked out and an object obscured his face, its almost laughable that he thought he wouldn’t get found out.

        The guy must realise that his employers are not going to consider him intentionally breaking the rules, as something they’d be willing to tolerate or be associated with. Even if he wasn’t directly representing his team at the time, doing something so dishonest was always going to get that response. Not taking it seriously “because its just a game” doesn’t fly.

  7. The Formula One and Formula E online eSport races have been an absolute joke and not worth watching… I’ve picked up the highlights for a few of them; huge first corner crashes, corner skipping, punting people out rather than clean overtakes (…ok, maybe a little similar to Formula E!). Absolutely not my “bag” and I can’t understand other people watching people play a video game… but perhaps I’m just old before my time.

    That said, it was a professional engagement for Audi and what it is doesn’t matter. Abt brought bad press on the team and should rightfully be punished.

    1. I can’t understand other people watching people play a video game

      Same reason people watch sports, to see people do things casual things you’re interested (driving, football, etc) but way way better and often competing against others who are the same level.

      Of course I can understand its not for everyone just like some people dont like watching sports.

      1. Thanks @yaru – that makes sense to me. I suppose I just struggle with it making the news or being broadcast on Sky Sports, but maybe I need to get with the times!

    2. I’m with you there, not my thing either. I also think Audi have just drawn attention to themselves, hardly anybody beyond hardcore fans actually watch (or care, to be brutally honest) about these virtual races. Sometimes it’s better to just quietly ignore it and wait for people to move on

  8. Should’ve terminated his contract.

  9. When nepotism strikes…

  10. Wow, that’s 2 drivers losing their real car seats because of simracing now.

    I like the seriousness of it, but compared to the lack of seriousness in simracing itself (damage off, fake race resets, celebrities etc), it doesn’t really fit.

    1. Well said.

    2. They’ve committed fraud basically on a real official event where they were representing their teams.

    3. I mean, if the guy paid a lookalike to stand in for him at a sponsor event, I imagine he’d have got fired for that too. Doesn’t really matter what it was, if you’re being paid to show up somewhere and you don’t, it’s not that surprising he got sacked.

  11. I disagree heavily with what he did, but I’m not sure it’s bad enough to lose your seat over. At the end of the day it was stupid and intentionally deceitful, so I kinda get it, but idk, this might seem like a step too far.

    1. Why does a ping on your internet address resolve to Abt’s home?


  12. The point is that those are Official events (even if virtual), with all the sponsors and all the teams represented.
    You just cannot cheat so blatlantly and hope to get away with it.

    It’s also a Championship made for Charity, for UNICEF. It’s double the bad, i mean.

    For Audi it’s a big image damage. I can understand the punishment.

    1. Basically yeah. Nobody will bat an eye if this was a random event he did in his spare time but this was an official event where he was representing his team.

      It wasn’t a weird oopsie moment either, they were steps taken here to actively deceive. That itself is the most damaging part, as it shows he has no competitive integrity.

      The worse part is nobody would care much if he didn’t do well cos they will understand its not his sport.

  13. RocketTankski
    26th May 2020, 14:01

    He wouldn’t be the first driver to skip a session in the simulator?

  14. Have any ideas how and why Vandoorne and Vergne suspected it was not him driving? Do they know each others tricks and driving style and could identify who is (not) driving? Is it down to the difference in the way sim racers drive?

    Would really much like to know what gave him away…

    1. @jeanrien His face was obscured during the stream which got the drivers suspicious and then the organizers checked the IP address that was logged in as him at it wasn’t him basically.

      Also, he was naff in the previous rounds.

      It’s not exactly the greatest ‘cunning plan’ in history.

      1. Thanks for the explanation. Not very elaborate indeed.

  15. Integrity, transparency and consistent compliance with applicable rules are top priorities for Audi

    …after Dieselgate.

    1. @geemac Note the not ‘always been’ so it’s probably something they’ve come up with since Dieselgate.

  16. Now I’ve seen some drivers complain about this on Twitter, I guess out of “solidarity”, like Laurens Vanthoor (now deleted) and Antonio Felix da Costa, saying they are deleting their Twitch, maybe their racing accounts. JEV has said that it’s after all it’s just a game, but why aren’t the racing standards enforced then, since many would be stripped of the racing licences in real life if they drove the same way.

    But this is comparing apples to oranges, which is weird since @dragon86 mentioned JEV has complained about Abt’s actions too. Abt was under a contract by an employer, and he took part in a public event representing that employer (I mean in this instance he didn’t, but you get the point), so he has to account for his actions towards the employer. For the racing itself, an independent steward is making decisions about your actions. That is obviously missing from online racing at the moment, but that is a whole different issue from what Abt has done, and unless Vanthoor or AFdC wanted to do something similarly stupid on their streams, then I don’t understand why they are upset about this or feel at risk.

  17. Probably just a stupid joke that blew up in his face.

    1. There is a wonderfully apt saying: “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”

  18. hate to admit it, but he seems to be kind of moron and nothing more… Get rid of him permanently!

  19. GtisBetter (@)
    26th May 2020, 16:24

    Daniël is uploading a video at 6, So I’ll wait till then to see what that brings

  20. Audi, the consistent model of integrity…Dieselgate

  21. Should have been fired, that’s serious fraud on his part.

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