LONDON (Reuters) – Audi Sport’s Daniel Abt was fined and disqualified from a Formula E virtual race on Sunday for sporting misconduct after letting a professional gamer race as a “ringer” for him.
Motor Racing – Formula E – Berlin E-Prix – Flughafen Tempelhof, Berlin, Germany – May 19, 2018 Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt celebrates winning the race REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
The German was also stripped of all points won to date in the Race at Home Challenge and will make a compulsory donation of 10,000 euros to a charity of his choice, a Formula E spokesman said.
Abt apologised to the sport, fans, his team and fellow drivers “for having called in outside help” and accepted the punishment.
“I did not take it as seriously as I should have,” he said.
“I am especially sorry about this because I know how much work has gone into this project on the part of the Formula E organisation. I am aware that my offence has a bitter aftertaste but it was never meant with any bad intention.”
Lorenz Hoerzing, a pro gamer who competes in a separate Challenge Grid competition and who stood in for Abt, was disqualified from all future rounds for sporting misconduct.
Saturday’s 15-lap race around a virtual Berlin Tempelhof track was won by Britain’s Oliver Rowland for Nissan e.dams with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne second for Mercedes.
“Really not happy here because that was not Daniel driving the car himself, and he messed up everything. Really ridiculous,” Vandoorne said on his Twitch stream after an incident.
“I’m questioning if it was really Daniel in the car.”
Jean-Eric Vergne, a two-times champion in the real-life all-electric series, backed up Vandoorne.
“Please ask Daniel Abt to put his Zoom next time he’s driving, because like Stoffel said I’m pretty sure he wasn’t in,” the Frenchman said.
Abt, who had not featured on the virtual podium in any of the previous races, did not appear for online post-race interviews.
The series features regular Formula E drivers competing on simulators from their homes and aims to provide some action for fans with racing on hold in real life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Challenge Grid is made up “gamers and influencers” competing for a prize of real-life track time in a Formula E car at a race weekend.
The disqualification meant series leader and compatriot Pascal Wehrlein moved up from fourth to third.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond