Daniel Abt, 27, a German factory Formula E driver for Audi, was sacked and fined over the weekend when he substituted a ringer to drive a virtual race for him. He now joins NASCAR’s Mister N-word, Kyle Larson, as the newest member of the “virtual racing troublemaker’s club.”
Like many pro racing series during the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than waiting out the lockdown, Formula E, an FIA sanctioned all-electric open-wheel series, has taken their racing online into the virtual world. Abt asked Lorenz Hoerzing, 18, who is an experienced regular in sim racing to run as a surrogate.
Hoerzing also has been suspended from the sim racing series.
Abt released an English subtitled video, explaining his actions, and announcing that he “won’t be racing with the team anymore,” was related to a prank planned by the two. “It would be a funny move if a sim racer drove for me. We wanted to document it and create a funny story for the fans with it.”
Hoerzing, in Abt’s virtual race car, took the lead and held it throughout the race. Towards the end he made contact with driver Stoffel Vandoorne with Mercedes-Benz, opening the door for Nissan’s Oliver Rowland to win.
The Formula E series, which features a number of has-been and never-will-be drivers, was immediately suspicious. Abt had not done well in previous rounds of the virtual series. Once the “prank” was revealed, the series suspended and fined the pair (£10,000 to charity). Audi took further action in firing the ex-GP2 driver.
What is even crazier about the scenario is Abt’s father runs the team! Abt is one of four drivers to have run in every Formula E race since its beginning in 2014. His father, Hans-Jürgen Abt, runs the company that oversees the Audi Formula E team: Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler.
“Shortly after the race, I realized myself that it did not end there and it suddenly went in a direction which I, myself, had not ever been able to even imagine in my dreams,” Abt stated on his video. “We did not think enough about the seriousness and the consequences of the situation.” The driver says he made a “huge mistake.”
Don’t sweat it Daniel. They may have done you a favor. You can always buy a ride in some other series that actually makes noise.