The Daniel Abt sim racing incident this weekend has put a lot of light on real-life drivers competing in sim racing.
The crossover between real-life racing and sim racing has been a beautiful thing during these trying times. In the past, there have been instances of the two worlds being at odds: pro drivers claiming sim racing is just a videogame, pro sim racers saying real-life drivers could never compete in the virtual world, and on and on. But not recently. Recently, there has been harmony.
Any harmony between the two worlds shattered this morning. The small cracks have started to appear the more we rely on sim racing to replace “real” racing, but this weekend put a nice big crack in the whole thing.
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What happened this weekend?
I will keep this bit of news super simple, as there is no need to drag out the drama. Daniel Abt, a pro driver for Audi’s Formula E team, cheated during an online sim racing event for charity. He did not cheat in a minor way; he had a professional sim racer secretly take his place.
Of course, when this was found out, mainly due to the speculation of Mercedes Formula E driver Stoffel Vandoorne, swift and immediate action was taken.
Daniel Abt had his points taken away and was ordered to donate ten-thousand Euros to charity. The professional sim racer was punished in an equally proportionate manner, and I thought we could all move on.
What happened in the last 24 hours?
Over the last 24 hours, Audi has announced that Daniel Abt will be suspended, with considerable speculation that he will lose his seat with the Formula E team. The potential of losing his seat is a substantial additional punishment that has both the sim racing community and motorsport communities talking. I will leave my opinion for later in this article, but this is not the first driver to get into a bind over sim racing.
This isn’t new
Recently, we had Kyle Larson lose his seat over using a racial slur during an online event. Though he has recovered to some degree and recently won a race in the World of Outlaws series, he had real-life repercussions to his actions while sim racing.
Prior to that, we saw Bubba Wallace rage-quit an event. Not only did he take a ton of flack for acting like a child but he also lost sponsors over the incident.
The knock-on effect
Though this is not the first time a driver has received real-world consequences for actions during a virtual event, the fall out has been more aggressive than I have personally seen in other instances.
My Twitter feed this morning has been full of pro drivers saying goodbye to Twitch, streaming, and sim racing events. A fair number of these drivers are associated with Formula E, but there have been a few from other series as well.
Having these drivers refuse to partake in events re-introduces the schism between sim racing and real-life racing that we had thought was somewhat healed.
The Internet Says:
The opinions surrounding these events are all over the place. There is the crowd that stands by Daniel Abt and other real-life drivers who are leaving sim racing. These people feel that sim racing is just a game and that there should be no repercussions for things done in a game.
There is another crowd that thinks that implying sim racing is “just a game” is insulting to esports and sim racing in general. This crowd has been vocal about dirty driving, purposefully crashing opponents, and more.
My opinion is some mix of these two. I see things from the sponsors’ perspective, as well. Let me explain.
I believe that real-life drivers partaking in sim racing events is a great thing. I want more of it. However, I am sensitive to the fact that they may look at sim racing as a game and competition. That’s fine, as long as they keep it clean and take it seriously. Esports is a sport, and the drivers should give it the respect it deserves.
If a driver messes up or does something dumb like purposefully crashing someone out, they should take the appropriate amount of flak for it. An accident is an accident; a purposeful crash is dirty. Either way, it is up to the event and community to judge the action.
I guess, in short, there is some leeway for folks as long as they show the medium some respect.
What people need to understand, though, is that these drivers are representing sponsors and teams. Anything they do while representing those sponsors and teams reflects directly on them. If I am sponsoring a driver and they do something on a game that hurts my brand, they best believe I will take appropriate action against them.
So for those who think the Audi suspension is too much, I ask you this: If you are Audi, do you want to associate with someone who will cheat in something as trivial as a charity event?
I can tell you I wouldn’t want to.
The internet is not a magical place where your actions have no repercussions, and I think that’s a lesson a lot of folks outside of just racecar drivers could learn.
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Daniel Abt has released a statement claiming that the cheating was not meant to hurt anybody, but to generate funny content for the fans. He admits that the joke went too far and takes all responsibility for his actions.
Additionally, Audi has officially parted ways with Daniel. My opinion on the matter does not change in light of this new information. Unfortunately actions have consequences, and I hope Daniel finds his way to drive for another team soon.
You can see his entire explanation and apology below. It is in German with subtitles in English.