A Formula E Driver Was Disqualified After Someone Else Drove A Virtual Race For Him

Formula E isn’t an eSports circuit by nature, but an electric car racing outfit that’s gone online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just like NASCAR, which ran a series of iRacing events before returning to action last weekend, the series has had to deal with some big adjustments in competing from home. But now we know that a driver didn’t compete in at least one event he claimed to run.

The Race reported on Sunday that driver Daniel Abt was fined by Formula E and retroactively disqualified for an event in which he “officially” placed third. That’s because after an investigation the sport’s governing body declared that he didn’t actually drive in his “home” race, instead employing a ringer to run the event as Abt while he presumably did something else.

Formula E announced Sunday that Abt was disqualified and professional simracer Lorenz Hoerzing banned from racing in future virtual events following the Formula E Race At Home Challenge, which took place on Saturday. Abt finished third, but controversy started immediately when other drivers — Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne both accused Abt of using a different driver in his place. That happened after a controversial finish in which race winner Oliver Rowland passed both Vandoorne and Abt’s No. 66 car in a turn, which you can see for yourself here.

Afterward, several drivers openly accused Abt of not actually racing in his car. His camera wasn’t working during the event, leading to direct questions about whether he was actually at the wheel.

[via The Race]

“Really not happy here because that was not Daniel driving the car himself, and he messed up everything. Really ridiculous,” he said on his Twitch stream.

Abt’s feed showed his cockpit prior to the race but his face appeared obscured by equipment. He did not appear for post-race interviews after finishing in third place.

Formula E champion Vergne also questioned whether Abt took part in the event saying: “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.”

An investigation soon followed, and Abt was swiftly disqualified and ordered to make a “compulsory donation” of 10,000 euros to a charity because it was revealed that Hoerzing was actually behind the wheel of the virtual Audi. According to The Race, organizers “cross-referenced IP addresses” and found it was impossible that Abt actually drove his car in the event on Saturday. There was plenty of anecdotal evidence that something was amiss on Saturday, as Abt didn’t do any of the virtual tie-ins that have become common with these events.

A feed of Abt on a 20-driver view Zoom page during the live broadcast showed a figure in a sim rig but his face was constantly obscured by a piece of equipment which is believed to have been a microphone.

Additionally, Abt’s twitch stream stopped functioning yesterday afternoon and after the race he was also unable to converse with TV presenters after apparent connection issues. No footage of Abt racing at Berlin is currently available on his Twitch stream.

As the site noted, it had been his best finish since the series had began running virtual races, which map the traditional Formula E courses but require a significant amount of practice to translate traditional racing skills to the virtual circuit. Apparently, Abt was frustrated with his less than stellar finishes and had a more seasoned virtual racing pro step in to boost his results in an event organized to raise funds for UNICEF.

“I would like to apologize to Formula E, all of the fans, my team and my fellow drivers for having called in outside help during the race on Saturday,” Abt said in a statement to The Race. “I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. I’m especially sorry about this, because I know how much work has gone into this project on the part of the Formula E organization.”

Abt had tweeted and retweeted about competing in the Race At Home series as recently as Friday, though considering the ruling that seems pretty silly now. It’s unclear if he will still participate in the Race At Home Challenge though, in a way, it seems that ship had already sailed.

[via The Race]

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