The decision to suspend Daniel Abt from his works Audi Formula E drive following his recent attempt at cheating in sim racing is the correct one – but many drivers have jumped to the defence of the embattled German driver.
For anyone living under a rock these last few days, controversy rocked the rFactor 2 powered Formula E Race at Home Series this past weekend, as 27-year-old Daniel Abt was caught trying to pass off a professional sim racing driver as himself during the most recent race in aid of charity foundation UNICEF.
The drivers, taking part in a race strictly put on for the real world Formula E racers to compete, immediately began questioning the performance of ‘Abt’ in his virtual rendition of the real world Gen2 Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler Formula E car, citing the fact the Germans performance was much improved from previous encounters within the series.
When viewing the driver from his webcam, the face of the person sat in his cockpit was obscured, again casting suspicions that were fuelled yet further as Abt claimed to be unavailable for post race interviews due to ‘technical issues’ with his internet connection.
After an internal investigation by the event organisers and Formula E, it was later revealed that Abt had indeed recruited a professional esport driver to take his place in the event, and subsequently Abt was given a 10,000 euro fine and excluded from the virtual championship to date.
As the controversy took hold in the public domain, his real world Audi Formula E team later confirmed Abt will be suspended from the real series – potentially losing his drive for the team that carriers his illustrious family name.
In my opinion, the decision by Audi to suspend and potentially sack Abt is the only course of action available to the German brand – after all, the VAG group can little afford the type of negative publicity attached to such behaviour from one of their highly paid employees and brand ambassadors.
As far as I can see, the idea of cheating in sport (either real or virtual) is abhorrent to me – it shows a distinct lack of respect for the hard work and dedication that goes on behind the scenes putting these events together for the drivers and public to enjoy, it shows a lack of class and respect to your competitors who face you on the virtual tarmac, and most important of all – it paints a very negative picture for the many sponsors and brands associated with the series – remember the Formula E Race at Home Challenge is an officially sanctioned championship that has been publicised as a replacement for the real championship while the world deals with the Covid-19 crisis, and motorsport awaits a safe date to resume.
Even if Abt himself considers the series ‘just a game’, the same principles and brand associations apply to both the world of real and virtual – and actions that bring either team or series into disrepute on the virtual circuit should have very real consequences in the real world too – you only have to look at NASCAR and the recent issues around both Kyle Larsson and Bubba Wallace as perfect examples of when these two worlds collide.
So for me, the deliberate deception performed by Abt last weekend as unbelievable as it is disgusting, and I for one applaud Audi for taking their decision to suspend the driver. Good call, well made.
Apparently that sentiment isn’t shared by many of his real world contemporaries however, as Social Media has been alight in recent hours with many big names getting somewhat bent out of shape by the news – completely misjudging the tone of the situation and showing a massive disrespect for the (e) sport we call our own:
This Tweet is from double Formula E champion, Jean Eric-Vergne. A respected and talented racing driver, Vergne is also one of the founder members of Veloce esport – and a very vocal proponent of esport racing as a legitimate form of sport and racing. Is it just me, or is it rather peculiar that the Frenchman has decided to make an abrupt 180 degree turn on his former stance? Labelling the whole esport scene as ‘just a game’?
Fellow Formula E race and one time Grand Prix prospect Antonio Felix da Costa has gone one further, completely throwing his toys out of the pram and quitting the Twitch streaming service completely – cutting off his 5,267 followers from watching future live broadcasts by the entertaining racer – all because one of his colleagues has been punished for blatant lying and cheating in an officially sanctioned esport event?
James Calado has also taken the same stance as da Costa, ending his popular streams with immediate effect and cutting off a popular source of entertainment for both his fans and those of the series in which he represents. Why, well as one user put it on his Twitter feed – “good for you to support cheating. Fans appreciate it’.
I find it absolutely unbelievable that cheating, no matter the context, has been so widely supported by such experienced names as those above (and these are just examples, many more can be found by searching social media). While fans are up in arms about the behaviour of Abt, real drivers are starting to show their true colours on the subject so it seems. Happy to be involved if it helps raise their profile and give air time to sponsors and teams, but absolutely unwilling to accept the consequences of behaviour of the most disgusting kind.
Frankly, I’m gobsmacked.
So, with many opinions from many a wide range of different perspectives, where do you fall in the great Daniel Abt cheating debate? Do you think Abt received a harsh punishment for his crimes as its ‘only a game’, or do you think Audi made the right call?
For me it’s an easy one. Throw the book at him Audi – no one likes a cheater – regardless of the context.
Update: The statement from Abt in this video