Daniel Abt has admitted he did not drive to third place in Saturday’s Formula E Race at Home Challenge and that professional simracer Lorenz Hoerzing imitated him in the #66 Audi.
Abt has been disqualified from the race and ordered to make a “compulsory donation” of €10,000 to charity, while Hoerzing has been banned from the Race Challenge outright, and was stripped of his sixth-place finish in the companion Formula E Challenge Grid race in Berlin.
Misgivings on whether Abt actually took part in the fifth round at the Berlin track had grown after fellow drivers accused the Audi racer of not being at the wheel.
The Race understands that Formula E Race at Home Challenge organisers cross-referenced IP addresses and found that Abt could not have been at the wheel of his sim during qualifying and the race.
Abt subsequently admitted he was not at the wheel of the Audi. He issued a personal statement this morning, which read: “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.
“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 organisation.
“I am aware that my offence has a bitter aftertaste, but it was never meant with any bad intention.
“Of course, I accept the disqualification from the race. In addition, I will donate 10,000 Euros to a charitable project.”
Suspicions were initially raised that Abt may have invited someone else to race under his name after he qualified second and led the race for a period before finishing third behind winner Oliver Rowland and runner-up Stoffel Vandoorne.
The Abt-entered Audi had by far its most competitive performance since the charity-orientated Race at Home Challenge was set up last month. His best previous qualifying was ninth, with his best finish before 15th. He had also retired in three other races through the ‘race royale’ format, whereby drivers in last position are forced to vacate their place in the event.
Both Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne voiced concerns that Abt was not taking part in the event, with Vandoorne repeatedly accusing Abt of not being at the wheel.
In addition to these concerns The Race also received several messages from other drivers overnight.
One Formula E driver, who asked not to be named, said: “I think it’s very sad, because we are doing this to provide a good show to the fans, to represent our sponsors and most importantly for a good cause with UNICEF. We will see what the outcome of the investigations will be. But between you and me it’s crystal clear.”
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.
Vandoorne was the most candid in his questioning of whether Abt was driving and during qualifying said: “I don’t believe Daniel… for sure someone else is driving for Daniel.”
The Mercedes driver then called Abt on his mobile phone.
“Daniel… Daniel, what are you doing? Let’s call Daniel,” said Vandoorne.
Laughing, the Belgian then says: “He’s not answering.”
It has also emerged that Abt’s name was taken off the official qualifying display order list for a period of time after the session ended and that all other drivers were promoted a position.
He was then seemingly reinstated and started the race from second position on the grid from where he went on to take the lead from Vandoorne midway through the first lap.
The Mercedes driver was particularly incensed by Abt’s ploy in the aftermath of the race, believing that the aggressive driving from Abt’s ringer cost his shot at a maiden win in virtual Formula E.
The Audi Formula E team, which The Race understands was completely unaware of the plot, has not commented on the controversy and it is believed is unlikely to do so.