With no real-life racing likely to take place for the time being, since mid-April, Formula E has been hosting official online races as part of its ‘Race at Home Challenge’. And things are getting spicy.
These races are contested by proper Formula E drivers—the very same guys who’d be racing for real had the series not been put on hold—using the rFactor2 PC sim, and taken just as seriously as the real thing. The fifth round took place last weekend—Nissan driver Oliver Rowland won, Merc’s Stoffel Vandoorne finished second, and Audi Sport’s Daniel Abt third.
Only all was not as it seemed. After the race, a number of drivers alleged that Abt had not actually been in control of his #66 Audi. His second place in qualifying and third-place finish were by far his best results yet—until this weekend, he hadn’t qualified higher than ninth, and his best race result was 15th. Moreover, Abt didn’t partake in post-race interviews, and though his webcam had been on during the race, his face was obscured.
Then the truth emerged—Abt wasn’t driving. He had enlisted a professional sim-racer called Lorenz Hoerzing to race in his car, under his name. Abt, who’s been a Formula E driver since 2014, was disqualified, stripped of his points, and ordered to pay a €10,000 (P555,730) fine to charity.
In a statement, the German apologized: “I did not take it as seriously as I should have. I am aware that my offense has a bitter aftertaste, but it was never meant with any bad intention.”
And now Abt has been full-on suspended by Audi Sport, meaning he could well lose his seat when real-life racing eventually resumes.
Meanwhile, Hoerzing has been barred from the ‘Race at Home Challenge’—he was officially competing (as himself) in the ‘Challenge’ grid, which is made up of esports racers and run alongside the main event.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.