An emotional Daniel Abt has responded to being axed from the Audi Sport Formula E team as a consequence for his actions in an esports race over the weekend during which he used a ‘ringer’ to compete in his place, saying the plan was always to expose himself simply as a funny story for fans.

The German driver – who has scored two Formula E wins for Audi in just over five seasons with the team – was thrown out of Saturday’s Berlin Race At Home challenge after using a professional sim racer named Lorenz Hoerzing to compete in his place.

However, the consequences of his actions escalated quickly with Formula E ordering him to make a 10,000euros donation to charity, before Audi Sport went to the lengths of cancelling his real contract with immediate effect.

The outcome has led to a mixed reaction on social media, with a number drivers supporting him including Jean-Eric Vergne – one of the drivers to raise suspicions originally – saying he hasn’t committed a serious enough offence to lose his actual drive.

Now Abt has taken to YouTube to explain at length his version of events, during which he explains the ruse simply spiralled away from his intention and that he had no plans to deliberately deceive anyone with his actions.

One of the more active drivers on social media with a healthy following, Abt says the idea was borne out of a joke – transmitted live on Twitch – that a sim racer should race in his place. This then developed into actually executing the idea, but he says he was fully planning to admit it after the race as part of the entertainment value he wanted to provide his fans.

Pointing out some of the ridiculous moments in previous races – with mad crashes and glitches – shows the racing shouldn’t be taken too seriously, he admits he didn’t quite anticipate his move would have the consequences it did.

Watch the full video reaction here (in German, with English subtitles)

Excerpts from his video statement can be read below

“I’ve been with Formula E for 6 years, since it was founded. We were a private team in the beginning, for the last 3 years it has been a factory team with Audi. As everyone knows, we are living in hard times right now. Corona has thrown the lives of a lot of people apart and it’s the same for us in motorsports.

“Formula E hasn’t had any races and everything is on hold, until you know how things will continue and to bridge this gap, Formula E started a Race At Home challenge which is a simulator race form home by the racing drivers, to fill this time without races with fun for the fans and to continuously be present, so it wouldn’t be forgotten.

“This Race at Home challenge had seen 5 races blast Saturday with everyone driving from home with the simulator. They are not about the real Formula E Championship, not about prize money. It is honestly only about entertaining you, the fans and to simultaneously collect donations from UNICEF. Meaning, for a good cause, for children.

“It’s a simulation which does not have anything in common with real racing, which is what I’m normally doing. One tries to make it look realistic, of course but it is definitely very far away from what makes a real Formula E car, how it drives, how it feels. It’s the same with the races. I believe that everyone realised that that’s the case after the first few races. One could see what happened there on the race track. There were loads of accidents and everyone drove as they liked. There were bugs, meaning errors in the game.

“Honestly, if you looked at it from the outside I believe that it was not what makes a real Formula E race, a professional racing event. Nevertheless, we participated in it, weekend after weekend. Our goal was to entertain you, the fans at home.

“We had a live stream to Twitch, we took you with us, we emphasised at the beginning that for us and for me, it is not about results in this online series. Personally, it was not at all important to me, right away from the start as it was not at all the reason why I did it, but the reason was to entertain people.


“I think it became clear relatively quickly that there were drivers taking it seriously, who let’s say put a lot of time into the simulator themselves. And there were drivers, me being one, who focused on the stream.

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“When we were practicing for this Race At Home challenge on a Twitch stream, we were talking to other sim races. We were communicating to them on an online programme. We discussed sim racing, we drove together and had fun. In this stream, on this day, we had a conversation and the idea came up that it would be a funny move if a Sim racer basically drove for me to show the other, real drivers, what he is capable of and uses the chance to drive against them. We wanted to document it and create a funny story for the fans with it.

“It was never an intention for me to let another driver drive for me, to get a result and keep quiet about it later on, just to make me look better, because I do not. These points, this result is irrelevant to me, personally.

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“I believe that by openly communication this idea live on stream with 1000 people watching us talk about it live, shows that it was not about withholding anything because it is simply not personally important to me.

“Shortly after the race, I realised myself that it did not end there and it suddenly went in a direction which I, myself, had not ever been able to imagine in my dreams, that this would happen. It was tested as if we had been driving. They found out. From the beginning I admitted it wasn’t me.

“I was advised to make a 10,000euro donation to give for a good cause, which I did immediately.

“Then it got to the media, they received the topic and basically immediately displayed me as a cheater, without giving me the chance to personally talk about it.

“To maybe tell them what really happened. I can understand, that we went too far with this idea. When looking back we did not think enough about the seriousness and the consequences of the situation.

“We made a huge mistake there.

“I stand by my mistake, I accept it and I will carry all the consequences for what I have done.

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“As this topic has become so extreme in the media and has been talked about from A-Z of this virtual delict of mine, has real consequence for me because today I was informed in a conversation with Audi, that our ways will split from now on.

“We won’t be racing together in Formula E anymore and the co-operation has ended. It is a pain, which I have never felt in this way in my life. It was extremely important for me to take the chance here and now, to tell you how it was and what happened and to simultaneously apologise to my family, to my friends, to Audi, to my partners, to Formula E, to UNICEF and of course to all the fans who have supported me over the years, with all of my heart.

“I made a huge mistake, I stand by it, I hope you can forgive me. Nevertheless, the last 6 years have been a great to me in motorsport.

“The last three years as an Audi factory driver have been an honour to me. To represent this brand, to be able to do that. I believe that, even if it does not feel good now, one should not forget that together we achieved the first Formula E victory for Audi, for a German driver, for me.

“I’m thankful to Audi for the support, for the great time.

“You make mistakes in life, I feel like I couldn’t fall any deeper, I’m on the ground but I will get up again.”

 

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