Following his controversy in Formula E’s Race at Home Challenge and subsequent suspension by Audi, Daniel Abt has explained the reasoning behind his recent esports scandal.
Talking in a 15-minute video on his YouTube channel, the 27-year-old detailed that his ‘ringer’ plot was for entertainment purposes only and held no intention for personal gain, with the two-time winner later confirming his departure from Audi.
The statement in full:
“I’m approaching you with a very important, very serious and very personal video today because I think that there is a lot to say about the incidents last weekend. I would have liked to do it earlier but due to contractual guidelines and terms, I was not able to. Now I can and I would like to take this chance to tell you about my view of this situation and give you my version. To transparently and honestly tell you what happened last Saturday and why it happened. I’ll start at the beginning.
“You all know: I’ve been with Formula E for 6 years since it was founded. We were a private team in the beginning. For the last three years it has been a factory input for Audi. As everyone knows, we are living in hard times right now. Coronavirus has thrown the lives of a lot of people apart and it’s the same for us in motorsports. Formula E hasn’t had any races and everything is on hold until you know how things will continue and to bridge this gap, Formula E started a ‘Race at Home’ Challenge which is a simulator race at home by the racing drivers to fill this time without races with fun for the fans and to continuously be present so it wouldn’t be forgotten.
“This ‘Race at Home’ Challenge had seen five races by last Saturday. Everyone is driving from home with the simulator. They are not about the real Formula E championship, not about prize money. It is honestly only about entertaining you, the fans and to simultaneously collect donations for UNICEF meaning for a good cause, for children. This online Formula E race is based on rFactor 2 which is a game. It’s a simulation which does not have anything in common with real racing which is what I’m normally doing. One tries to make it look realistic, of course, but it is definitely very far away from what makes a real Formula E car how it drives, how it feels. It’s the same thing with the races.
“I believe that everyone realised that that’s the case after the first races. One could see what happened there on the race track. There were loads of accidents. Everyone drove as they liked. There were bugs, meaning errors in the game. Honestly, if you looked at it from the outside, I believe that it was not what makes a real Formula E race a professional racing event. Nevertheless, we participated in it, weekend after weekend. Our goal was to entertain you, the fans at home. We had a live stream on Twitch, we took you with us. We emphasised from the beginning that for us and for me, it is not about results. This is an online series. Personally, it was not important to me, right away from the start as it was not at all the reason why I did it but the reason was to entertain people.
“I think it became clear relatively quickly that there were drivers taking it seriously who, let’s say, put a lot of time into the simulator themselves. And there were drivers, and I am one of them, who focused on the stream. We had more viewers in our first stream than the official Formula E broadcast. We had a lot of people watching it who didn’t care what placement I could get but they just liked the interaction of me talking to fans during the race, of us commenting on the race. We tried to give you at home a good show.
“From the beginning, I’ve always tried to bring Formula E and everything around it, so the sport which I’m practicing with social media where I am very active as I personally like it and where we have a big fanbase and a big reach with 350,000 subscribers on YouTube alone… My goal and wish always has been to bring motorsport and what I am doing closer to you all and to show it to you. To serve this sport right and to push it. It has always been a matter of mine and we have done it from the beginning by accompanying Formula E with behind the scenes and views, which, I believe, had not been there before. We brought that to you. I believe this shows how important this topic has always been to me.
“When we were practicing for this ‘Race at Home’ Challenge on a Twitch stream, we were talking to other Sim racers. We were communicating to them through an online program. We discussed Sim racing, we drove together and had fun. In this stream, on this day, we had a conversation and the idea came up that it would be a funny move if a Sim racer basically drove for me to show other, real drivers, what he is capable of and uses the chance to drive against them. We wanted to document it and create a funny story for the fans with it. That was our idea on this day and our thought.
“So we talked about it, we thought about how to make it happen, how to document it and how to unwind it in a video afterwards. It was also very important to me, to say, that it was never my intention to let another drive for me to get a result and keep quiet about it later on just to make me look better. Because I do not. These points, this result, is irrelevant to me, personally. It has no impacts in any way. I’m not getting any money for it. Nothing of the sort. The sim racer hasn’t received any money from me, either. It was simply a common idea. It would be a feeling of ‘this could be something cool’. The Sim racers themselves liked it, thought it was exciting. They went with the idea and so did we. This how it went down.
“Then we did the stream on Saturday and I ‘drove’ this race which I, of course, did not. We wanted to act as if I was actually driving to unwind it afterwards. It has never been our intention to lie to you, or to withhold anything from you. I believe that, by already openly communicating this idea live on stream, and there were 1,000 people watching us talk about it live. I think that this in itself shows that it was not about withholding anything because it simply is not personally important to me. When I drove this race on Saturday, the other drivers reacted to it, of course, and realised that there was something odd. I was aware of that. It had never been my will or idea to keep this secret from them. We even texted in WhatsApp groups and I gave some hints. I asked them what would be a good time to land in the top five. They responded and the young Sim racer did achieve this time. He did this race and finished third place. If you could check the IP addresses and the boy is from Austria, I was aware of that too. We didn’t hide that by using a VPN account and trying to work around it. No, we consciously left it the way it was because we didn’t have the intention that this wouldn’t be recognised.
“It was the same thing with the interview with the top three after the race where I consciously didn’t participate because I didn’t want to do this interview as I thought it would be wrong. Shortly after the race, I realised to myself that it did not end there and it suddenly went in a direction which I, myself, had not ever been able to even imagine in my dreams that this would happen. It was tested if we had been driving. They found out. From the beginning, I admitted that it wasn’t me. That it was someone else. Then it took its turn.
“I was advised to do a €10,000 donation to give for a good cause which I did immediately. We went to the ‘Allgauer Werkstatten’ which champions disabled people, takes care that they are mobile. We accepted this €10,000 penalty right away. I didn’t try to discuss it. I said ‘Hey, it is for a good cause and I understand that I made a mistake. You don’t like it, so I will do that.’ Then it got to the media. They received the topic and basically, immediately displayed me as a cheater without giving me the chance to personally talk about it. To maybe tell them what really happened.
“I can understand that we went too far with this idea. When looking back, we did not think enough about the seriousness and the consequences of the situation. We made a huge mistake there. I stand by this mistake. I accept it and I will carry all of the consequences for what I have done. I want to emphasise that I am glad that the Sim racing guys weren’t drawn into this and were relatively left alone by the media in comparison to me. I think that it’s very important as they are young guys which have their whole life ahead of them and didn’t think far enough ahead, just like I did but it is my responsibility and I will carry it.
“As this topic has become so extreme in the media and has been talked about from A-Z, this virtual delict of mine has real consequences for me because today I was informed in a conversation with Audi that our ways will split from now on. We won’t be racing together in Formula E anymore and the cooperation has ended. It is a pain which I have never felt in this way in my life. It was extremely important to me to take the chance here and now to tell you how it was and what happened and to simultaneously apologise to my family, to my friends, to Audi, to my partners, to Formula E, to UNICEF, and of course to all fans who have supported me over the years with all of my heart.
“I made a huge mistake. I stand by it. I hope you can forgive me. Nevertheless, the last six years have been a great time to me in motorsport. I met so many amazing people. I learned so much during Formula E as a human being, too. I have grown up. I simply loved motorsports, and what I did there, from deep inside. The last three years as an Audi factory driver have been an honor to me. To represent this brand. To be able to do that. I believe that, even if it does not feel good now, one should not forget that together, we achieved the first Formula E victory for Audi, for a German driver, for me. Together, in the very first year. We had a double victory in Berlin. We had the perfect result on a weekend. We did that as the only team ever in a home race. I believe that there were moments which we can be very proud of which I will always carry in my heart and never forget. I’m thankful to everyone at Audi for the support, for the great time.
“At the end, there only is to say: You make mistakes in life. I feel like I couldn’t fall any deeper. I’m on the ground but I’ll get up again. I will come back. I surely need some time for myself right now, to reflect on things, to think about my future. But I believe that it will always continue and there will always be a way. I would, of course, be extremely happy if you accepted my apology, supported me on my way in the future again and we will see each other again, soon.