“Streaming is done for me”: Formula E drivers respond to Abt’s suspension

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Formula E drivers have said they will stop streaming their simraces after Audi suspended Daniel Abt over his actions in a virtual race last weekend.

Audi said Abt had been suspended “with immediate effect” after using a professional simracer to drive on his behalf during the Formula E Race at Home round on Saturday. Several of Abt’s fellow Formula E racers reacted to the announcement with dismay on social media.

“After all this a game that should be taken seriously, but it’s a game,” said two-times Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne.

“Then what about all the drivers crashing on purpose, that would probably get their licence removed if that was reality? [I’ve] been out of almost all races for unsportsman[like] behaviours and drivers using me as brakes.”

Growing numbers of drivers in Formula E and other championships have used streaming services such as Twitch to share their simracing with fans. Two Formula E drivers have now said they will no longer do so. “No more streaming, sorry guys,” posted James Calado. “I guess streaming is done for me too,” added Antonio Felix da Costa.

Others suggested Audi’s decision to suspend Abt from his real-world racing duties was an over-reaction.

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Speaking yesterday before their decision was announced, World Touring Car Cup driver Nicky Catsburg told VCO “what happened recently has almost made me afraid of simracing a little.”

“Streaming is done for me”: Formula E drivers respond to Abt’s suspension
“For example, the Daniel Abt story, I’m sure that he never had any harmful intentions and he probably just wanted to make something funny for his YouTube channel. And some of the response he’s getting actually made me a little bit sick.

“I saw some articles almost suggesting that he should lose his real-life ride for something he did online. And for me that’s taking it really next level, way too far.

“Last night when I saw that I was honestly thinking maybe I should really reconsider what I am doing online because it’s beneficial in a way for me but it’s not like I have to do it. Nobody is demanding me to do it. So I’m putting something on the line which maybe isn’t the smartest thing to do.”

However Sam Brabham, Porsche racer and grandson of world champion Jack Brabham, defended Audi’s decision.

“As much as this seems like a trivial reason to suspend someone, Audi will have looked at this situation and seen negativity towards their brand,” he wrote. “As an employee of that brand, if you are to bring that brand into disrepute then I see no reason why Audi should not take action.”

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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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45 comments on ““Streaming is done for me”: Formula E drivers respond to Abt’s suspension”

  1. He’s representing a brand in an event and has tarnished the name, therefore he deserves a punishment. By which I mean a fine, or some form of PR day etc. He shouldn’t be forced out of a real life job for not taking a video game seriously. Put it in perspective…

    If this is a serious event, then the drivers should be briefed about it and they would take it seriously. If this is a bit of public entertainment for fun (which to my understanding it was), then this is blown way out of proportion. He hasn’t killed anybody, he hasn’t robbed a bank or stolen prize money, he’s been silly on a video game… which is what they’re for. Fine him sure, but suspending/sacking him is ridiculous.

    1. They are pragmatists, they don’t care about “common sense” or appeals to emotions. It’s really simple.

      If sportsman, even when not playing does something that annoys sponsors

      Then punish sportsman enough to placate sponsors and keep that sweet flow of money open

      1. “even when not playing does something that annoys sponsors”

        If someone sponsors a sportsperson, they are doing so because they expect the sales generated by the good publicity to outweigh the cost of sponsoring them. It is a business decision. If the sportsperson does something which reduces the extra sales they generate, or leads to them lowering the sales of the company, the they will be dropped.

        1. https://dai.ly/x7u547i
          F1 2020 Ted’s Notebook – 27.05

    2. What do you think would happen to any videogamer who is paid to play in a competition, has sponsors etc @ben-n? If they would pull a stunt like this, I am sure they would be out too.

      The reason these guys are all in the online racing for Formula E is almost certainly because their teams have agreed to do this and have their drivers in it. This is an official representation of FE and the Audi team. I think you can understand that since Abt was doing this as part of his job – pretty much like PR events etc are too – walking out on it with this “joke” is having consequences for him.

      If you watch his statement video, it is pretty clear Daniel was not really in there to have fun, he seemed a bit disdainful of it all. That might also be the real reason why he even entertained the idea to do this.

  2. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    26th May 2020, 15:47

    Am totally bemused at Formula E drivers defending this, or saying they won’t stream anymore as a result. As for Vergne complaining about driving standards – that’s a valid concern but a totally different issue. This is about whether a guy who got someone to pretend to be him – and presumably wouldn’t have told anyone if he hadn’t have been found out so was fine to reap the rewards without doing any work, should be punished for deliberately attempting to decieve others. At best he was lazy and didn’t care or at worst he’s a cheater – either way it’s a bad look.

    The ‘it’s just a game’ doesn’t excuse the fact he openly lied, or that Formula E and the other teams/drivers involved are attempting to treat it with some degree of respect. He didn’t, so he deserves any punishment he gets.

    1. I think they’re more worried that actions in what they thought to be a laid back, jokey mini-championship could potentially get them fired, and they’re worried they might accidentally say something that the sponsors don’t like or something. Seeing someone get serious consequences has worried them, and you can see why. It’s because you don’t really think about the fact that you’re representing the sponsors when on stream because you’re just at home having some fun. Of course what Abt did was undeniably wrong, but he probably wouldn’t have been sacked if he wasn’t representing the team and sponsors.

    2. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      26th May 2020, 18:47

      Got to add I’ve watched his ‘apology video’ on YouTube and it doesn’t appear he actually intended to cheat. Seems like he wanted to play a prank – have a Sim Racer take his place and then make a video about it later. Hasn’t seemed like he made any attempt to hide that that either.

      So instead of him being lazy, or a cheater, it just seems he’s an idiot that didn’t think about the consequences of his actions. I don’t think that excuses what he did at all – he should have in the least told Audi his plans, or FE themselves but chose not to. If he had they’d probably have been fine. Any punishment he gets is still on his own head.

    3. You see it as lying and cheating; I see a joke, although not a very funny one. But then I can’t take the whole concept at all seriously.

      1. The thing is, sim racing has been steadily growing for the last 30 years. It was by far and away the first e-sport and has spawned a multi million pound industry.

        Now do me a favour and google Starcraft competition.

        Back? Astounded by the prize money? Shocked by the audience size? Good, because virtual racing has that exact same potential

        People want e-sports because it earns colossal sums of money for the sponsors and that gives them a great deal of power.

        So, by all means, you don’t have to take it seriously. But when Audi do, you now understand why, what they are trying to tap into that money and why they don’t want one of their drivers mucking it up for them

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          26th May 2020, 21:03

          Oh come on don’t be so pretentious, these races are a joke. The disgusting tactics in the Indicar race was a clear testament that they should stop this nonsense or at the very least stop pretending that it’s anything more than just .. a joke … to keep people entertained a little.

          1. @f1osaurus watch the Supercars e-Series. It’s taken somewhat seriously, to the extent that penalties are applied during the race (e.g. drive-through penalties etc). Still a bit crashier than real-life, but not the dodgem cars of other series.

      2. Do you know the term “Schroedinger’s Douchebag”?

        It’s when someone does something obnoxious, and then decides whether they’re joking or not based on the reaction of the crowd.

        I *despise* the excuse, “It’s just a joke.” It’s obviously *not* a joke. Abt would never have said anything if he didn’t get caught. That’s not a joke. That’s not even a gag for a Youtube channel, because *if he didn’t get caught no one would have ever known about it*. That’s just cheating. Pure, simple, unadulterated cheating.

        You can say that it’s cheating at something that’s “just a game” or that *you* don’t take it seriously, so you don’t care, but sponsors are *paying him*, and I assume they’re taking it fairly seriously.

        “It’s just a joke,” is the most obnoxious way to dismiss the criticism when you’ve been found to do harm. When it’s only a “joke” if you get caught, it’s not a joke at all.

        1. Never heard the term “Schroedinger’s Douchebag” before. Hilarious!

        2. Thus is the crux of the whole Political Correctness debate.

          It is just a joke if it isn’t intended to cause harm.

          If even one person takes offence (which happens all the time on the internet) then suddenly it’s no longer a joke, but a show of incredibly poor judgement and insensitivity – the receiver has all the power in this PC world.

  3. So it seems more drivers are afraid of detection.
    There is no way you can cheat and avoid the consequences. So avoiding streaming ( not the virtual drive itself!!)
    Is the simplest solution.

  4. It should be noted that Da Costa and Catsburg are drivers who have streamed long before this special year has started. Catsburg has also driven iRacing endurance events with Verstappen and Norris in recent years, and he is also the driver who accompanied Jimmy Broadbent along his first laps around the (real, physical) Nordschleife last year. They aren’t new to simracing or streaming, it is rather that the new kind of attention simracing gets, and teams/sponsors/bosses transfering expectations from real-world-racing towards the sims collides with the slightly more casual atmosphere and culture simracing had until recently.

  5. I have to imagine that Abt was already on a short leash with Audi. His family name may be on the car, but he’s never delivered to the same level as di Grasi, who spent the first three or four seasons at the top of the field with Buemi.

    This smacks of Audi finding the perfect excuse to release a driver they’d soured on.

  6. Seems like a copout on both sides. Audi does not want to spend any more money than they need so if a driver gives an excuse to get fired (see larson) the sponsors are more than happy to take full advantage of it. I’m not saying audi is in the wrong, that kind of cheating was worse than what a word larson said. And during normal season audi would have not cared about this at all. But now.. in this financial situation… any excuse is good excuse. Audi is looking to just save some money. They’ll take any reason to save some money. For the fe drivers it is the same deal. Some of them don’t want to do this simracing stuff. They get paid regardless. But instead of doing nothing and taking it easy they have to do this simracing thing. Any excuse not to do it is a good excuse.

    Of course the driving standards issue is another thing. Some drivers treat these events like total joke and have shown no respect at all towards their fellow competitors, the event, the sponsor, the organizer nor the series by doing stuff that in real life would get them permanently banned many times over. But it must be said that some of these organizers also treat these events like jokes. The indy fiasco is in its own category of failure but the pure comedy what was the last f1 e-sport event comes a close second… for different and yet so similar reasons. I’m sure for lots of the drivers the question is why bother?

    So I can understand there is little more nuance to this situation. Some drivers and sponsors and all money people for sure are looking for any excuse to save some money by killing any and all contracts on technicalities. But equally there are drivers who are fed up with the joke nature of these events. How the events and their own time and effort is not respected at all and everything goes. Yet the penalties can sometimes hit really hard. Slip one word and your whole career is done. Abt’s offense is harder to justify as it was blatant and planned but what is the reward for the drivers for doing these events? Drive for free just so some sponsor can show their logos… who will not think twice to get rid of your contract if any situation arises. It is risk vs reward and it is all risk for the drivers.

    1. They also have a spot open for a better driver to come in too… So that’s practical.

  7. Jose Lopes da Silva
    26th May 2020, 16:47

    Isolation is making people going nuts.
    I’ll stick to just playing.

  8. Some people seem to take themselves way too seriously in this PC world we live in.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      26th May 2020, 18:36

      Lack of sense of humour is not related to political views.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        26th May 2020, 21:05

        Is that humor? Because it very much feels like PC is very much related to humor. Or rather the lack of humor.

      2. Political incorrectness isn’t fundamentally humorous.

  9. So are these drivers still getting paid to represent their teams?

  10. These virtual races are like those events drivers have to attend because of sponsorship reasons. No one would even think about hiring someone to pose for them. And if they did, the team would rightfully fire them or suspend them.

    I don’t understand at all. I even think the case s of Pagenoud and that Ferruci were no where near this bad. This isn’t a matter of “taking it as a game”, or “it’s just for fun’, I don’t understand the reasons. Why? If you dont want to race, don’t do it, the team will find a replacement… And if you’re obliged by them to do it, is it really that hard to do a virtual race??

    It’s the dishonesty I find disgusting too… Hiding it all hoping no one find out. For what?

    And don’t even mention the fact that it’s charity race… And now all the others don’t want to stream? Is it really that hard to be a normal guy?

  11. I think crashing into people on purpose like Santino Ferruci is a far worse offense than what Abt did, but as a brand representative he’s got to be smarter than that.

    As a fan, I’ve seen enough sim racing to be honest and frankly don’t care whether a driver stops doing it now or not.

    Especially Formula E, which manages to take the most boring aspects of the series and accentuate them even more.

  12. RocketTankski
    26th May 2020, 17:48

    Don’t be so tough on it, JEV.
    Formula E has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years.

  13. Without any real stakes, there are inevitably going to be participants that don’t take it seriously. I can’t really blame them, professional drivers have not spent the entirety of their teenage and adult lives aspiring to sit on the couch at home in front of a webcam playing a video game. Asking… or even demanding… that they take it as seriously as an actual race day is a bit much. I say leave the professional e-sports to the e-sports professionals.

  14. He wanted to win so badly he was willing to cheat and got someone else to secretly race on his behalf. It’s not about a silly virtual race. It’s about his flawed character and how it will stain Audi for the foreseeable future. Plenty of other drivers they can use.

    1. Do you think less of Audi because of it?

  15. GtisBetter (@)
    26th May 2020, 18:14

    I think there is a big misunderstanding and miscommunication between the drivers side and the sponsor side in which they didn’t tell each other wat was expected and how it was perceived. On one hand sponsors and FE wants this to be very serious, but when you watch the race it is anything but. I can relate to drivers not taking it seriously. It’s very messy.

    That doesn’t means that Abt is not to blame. He thought it would be funny, but the joke blew up in his face. To me it seems a step to far to fire him for this. Just let him give kids a tour of the Audi factory every monday morning or something.

  16. Meant to add, he might not be the only one who was cheating…

  17. Suspension? A bit harsh. But he needed a reprimand.

    But the severity of punishment IMHO should go hand in hand with how he was taking part in the race. If Audi said, we would like you to take part, or if taking part is in his contract, or at least being asked to (Though I doubt there is a specific rule about online racing), then sticking two fingers up at it and getting someone else to do it deserves this punishment.

    This isn’t a Top Gear episode. This is an official race, and he is a professional driver! I cannot imagine he’ll be that bad at a racing sim to need a professional sim driver? I assume he did this from home, so he has some sort of sim setup. I know it’s not like its works team setup sure, but come on, it’s a pathetic action

    Speaking yesterday before their decision was announced, World Touring Car Cup driver Nicky Catsburg told VCO “what happened recently has almost made me afraid of simracing a little.”

    REALLY?????! Your afraid of sim racing? How on earth does this make you afraid? The two big stories is a racist and lazy git swapping his seat. That’s not a lot to be afraid about if your not a racist or lazy. The whole Lando Indy fight, is a handbags at dawn farce on that no-one lost any real points or money.

    1. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
      27th May 2020, 8:26

      > Your afraid of sim racing? How on earth does this make you afraid?

      You can make things while doing something for fun, to entertain the viewers, that can have real consequences in your daily work. If you do something it’s because you think it’s right, for fun or whatever, you wouldn’t do it if you know it will cost you your workplace. I suppose some of them have understood they don’t have the right feeling of the impact of what they do. Where is your employee, your sponsor, drawing the line? On track these guys know how to behave (well, except Ferrucci), know the rules. At home it’s a whole different thing.

      Just to make an example, Mercedes could be unhappy for Gutierrez behavior during the last Monaco GP, where he drove in a, let’s say, unprofessional way, and sack him. Would it too much? I don’t know, to me Abt’s stunt is funny while Gutierrez driving was despicable.

      I wouldn’t even be surprised if, to protect their investment, big names like Ferrari or Mercedes stop giving permission to stream to the likes of Leclerc or Bottas. Better safe than sorry.

  18. Drivers talking about quitting streaming for this??? First of all, nobody had any issues with Abt streaming the thing. This really had nothing to do even with anything that was said, written or done while streaming as such. This was about a driver who tried to snake out of a PR event for his employer and the racing series.

    If he had really wanted to make a joke out of it for a good fun moment, he should have planned it by doing it either while streaming a non official game, or should have talked it through with FE and Audi.

  19. massive overreactio

    1. F1 2020 Ted’s Notebook – 27.05

  20. Audi have tarnished Audi. When I first saw the news, even though he’s an Audi racer, I didn’t even think of Audi. To be honest, I didn’t think badly of him either, it’s a game! Shame in you Audi, what’s the world coming to.

  21. It is a game – but that does not matter.

    He cheats because he isn’t anywhere near as good enough to win. But the event supports a charity and he committed to it. If it were a game of tic-tac-toe or whatever instead of simracing it would still be appalling judgment to cheat on it.
    This lack of honesty is a blemish Audi does not want to be associated with. Since Dieselgate everything lies under the magnifying glass.

    Daniel will have to do a hell of a lot more than just posting an apologetic video to get rolling again.

  22. https://dai.ly/x7u547i
    F1 2020 Ted’s Notebook – 27.05

  23. Was there money or a prize on the line? No? Then why care about a game being played and shown for fun? Idiotic over-reaction that makes Audi look like corporate buffoons.

  24. I’ll go from not watching them in formulaE, to not watching them streaming, to not watching them hang out at home or whatever they do plan to do.

    No loss.

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