What has happened to Daniel Abt is sad.
Abt is a hugely popular driver.
He has been in Formula E since Season one. With the Abt team that became the works Audi squad.
In that time, he’s taken 2 wins and Audi has won the Teams Championship.
Not only have his achievements been on the track. He has helped to grow the series through his own following.
Abt is one of the most active drivers on social media and YouTube in particular where he has over 370,000 subscribers.
He is one of the most followed drivers on Instagram, behind only Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne on the Formula E grid.
He does so much for the fans and is rightly applauded for it.
This new unfamiliar world Esports is therefore an arena you would expect him to succeed in.
I mean, there are lots of drivers who have picked up the Esports gauntlet and have thrived.
In the Formula E Race at Home challenge, Vandoorne, Pascal Wehrlein and Max Gunther are the standout performers.
Oliver Rowland has been on their heels, getting closer and closer and triumphing with the win in Berlin most recently.
All of them perform admirably in the events being very far ahead of the rest.
There have been others who are not on the pace but are enjoying the events.
Alexander Sims for example. Despite the name, he is not a natural sim racer. But every weekend he fires up his stream and has a ball.
Abt was one of those who didn’t click with this new form of competition.
He was unfortunately mediocre in the Race at Home challenges that have taken place with a best result of 11th in the practice round at Monaco, with no obvious sign of improvement.
Speaking to the excellent team at Inside Electric a few weeks ago for a podcast released this week, Abt said he was not taking the Race at Home challenge too seriously saying it was unrealistic to become successful in esports in such a short time.
We all know what happened.
Abt got talented Sim Racer Lorenz Hoerzing, a competitor in the Challenge Grid, to race for him in the Berlin race.
The idea being that they film it and release it as a video on YouTube as a prank.
Hoerzing then raced to third. Which at the time looked like a marked improvement for Abt…
The suspicion came from the drivers. Vandoorne was particularly vocal on his stream and Jean-Eric Vergne called it out when he was interviewed on the main TV/online feed.
The Sunday afterwards, Abt was disqualified and asked to pay a fine to a charity of his choice. A punishment that Formula E thought fit the bill. Hoerzing was also disqualified from the Challenge grid season for the sim racers.
Money to charity from an event all done in the aid of UNICEF makes sense.
Obviously the next move caused quite a stir.
Abt was suspended from his Audi drive with immediate effect. Essentially a sacking.
Audi pulled out of WEC a few years ago and have announced the end of their DTM operation too. Formula E is now their flagship competition series and they want that to be by the book.
And the corporation were not happy with Abt’s actions.
In the initial statement they said: “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. For this reason, Audi Sport has decided to suspend Daniel Abt with immediate effect.”
In a second statement later on the week to clarify their decision Audi said: “The incidents that took place during the ‘Race at Home Challenge’ sim racing series were not a mistake, but a conscious decision to go against the rules.”
Basically, Abt has been sacked because he deceived and theoretically cheated in the event.
On paper, simple as.
He represented Audi and indirectly involved them in his prank. Simulated or reality, he was still contracted as an Audi representative and to take part in the event legitimately.
He betrayed Audi’s trust and they sadly parted ways.
That is what makes this so sadly logical. There is nothing wrong with Audi’s motive from a corporate perspective. We just wish there was to protect Daniel Abt from this fate.
The Esports is taking place for obvious reasons.
And as mentioned above, there are drivers who are in with a chance of winning all the time and there are those who are not.
The latter being the majority.
The drivers are mostly taking part for the fans. The competition is there but to many, it is purely for the entertainment. The twitch streams being prime evidence of this.
This was Abt’s intention. To please the fans.
But he sadly misjudged this.
He is not a cheat, he is just a good driver who made a daft mistake.
A misjudgement that has now lost him his drive, likely his Formula E career.
It is such a shame to lose the brilliant driver and person that is Daniel Abt from Formula E. Those who are much better placed than me have spoken about their positive experiences with him and how great he is.
My friend Katy Fairman wrote a brilliant piece about the whole situation on her blog the other day which I urge you to read. She knows Daniel Abt very well and wrote a brilliant piece about what she thinks about it.
This whole situation has caused such a furore, mainly because of the knee jerk reaction and a story being heightened when there are no distractions from Twitter.
Abt’s Formula E career has ended in a unique and unhappy way. All the motives make sense and it was so easily avoidable. I hope Abt can come back stronger in his next venture. He does deserve it.