Formula E driver Daniel Abt has been suspended by his Audi team for using a professional esports gamer to compete for him.
Abt had been taking part in the ‘Race at Home Challenge’ which raised funds for the UNICEF coronavirus relief fund.
After being found not to have driven his car himself in the qualifying and fifth race of the series on Saturday, May 23, Abt apologized and was disqualified from the race as well as being fined 10,000 euros ($10,956).
Audi has now suspended the driver “with immediate effect.”
“Integrity, transparency and consistent compliance with applicable rules are top priorities for Audi – this applies to all activities the brand is involved in without exception,” Audi said in a statement.
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Suspicions were initially aroused about Abt’s driving after the 27-year-old German qualified in second place and finished third in the actual race having not scored a point in the first four rounds of the series.
“Really not happy here because that was not Daniel driving the car himself, and he messed up everything. That was ridiculous,” said former F1 driver Stoffel Vandoornen on his Twitch stream. “I’m questioning if it was really Daniel in the car.”
“Please ask Daniel Abt to put his Zoom on next time he’s driving, because like Stoffel said, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t in,” two-time FE champion Jean-Eric Vergne said.
Following an investigation by Formula E on Sunday, which included IP address verification, it was concluded that Abt could not have been behind the wheel.
The gamer who replaced Abt is widely reported to be 18-year-old Lorenz Hoerzing, who competes in the FE Challenge series, a parallel championship for esport drivers. CNN has reached out to Hoerzing via his Allied esports team for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.
Abt released an apology shortly afterwards in which he accepted his disqualification
“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,” said Abt, who has promised to provide a further update on the story later on Tuesday.
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“I did not take it as seriously as I should have. I am aware that my offence has a bitter aftertaste, but it was never meant with any bad intention.”