A prank gone wrong
Daniel Abt has been barred for cheating in an incident in online computer-game racing: Audi has surprisingly suspended their regular Formula E driver Daniel Abt with immediate effect.
The reason for the suspension: “Daniel Abt did not drive his car in qualifying and the race at the fifth event of the Race at Home Challenge on 23 May himself, but let a professional Sim-Racer do so.” Abt accepted the ban gracefully and immediately paid a 10,000 euro fine.
What according to Abt was intended as a prank for his YouTube channel was interpreted as an attempt to cheat, or at least as disrespect for his fellow racers. “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,” the Group then said. Who will take Abt’s place in the upcoming races has not yet been announced.
Incidentally, Abt himself is fully aware of his mistake and has taken responsibility for it. The racing driver explains how the idea came about in a video of his own (in German, link below).
In the video he said that the online sim races are “not about prize money, it’s just about entertaining you fans and at the same time raising money for Unicef, so for a good cause. It’s about a simulation that has nothing to do with real driving, with what I do. It is not about professional (real-life) racing. Despite that, we played the game week for week in order to entertain fans.”
He said the most important thing for him about the online races was to speak to fans and interact with them. There were in fact more people watching the online game than in the actual races, with 350k fans just on YouTube. In his very candid video, Abt says, “I tried to deliver a good show for you at home.” He assures viewers it was nothing to do with trying to get some kind of winning advantage in the race, but rather to have fun with the game and the fans with a funny reveal – a prank. To assure fans he was not trying to cheat, he pointed to the fact that he talked about the swap with the Sim racing who drove for him live on stream. He said wanted a setup that he and the sim racer could then reveal to the entertainment of fans. Once the prank flew open before he and the Sim racer revealed their prank, the media, of course, pitched in. He said “The media has portrayed me as a cheat… It more painful than anything I’ve never experienced in my life.”
Abt delivers a very convincing, quietly emotional apology to Audi, to his team, his partners and his fans, which makes it hard not to wish him the best and hope he gets back into the driver’s seat soon.
carscoops.com, fiaformulae.com, YouTube.com (Abt’s explanation and apology in German)