When German racing driver Daniel Abt was dismissed from his Audi Formula E team for having a professional Esports gamer stand in for him during the Formula E Race at Home challenge, he was an understandably distraught man.
Abt was immediately repentant and received a terrific amount of public sympathy and support, as it appeared an innocent mistake had led to his career come crashing down around him. Of course, there are always two sides to every story, and Audi’s stance was that they could not waver on their firm company principles of sporting ethics and conduct.
As fate would have it, however, Abt was thrown a lifeline when the NIO 333 Team announced that Ma Quinghua would miss the Berlin finale ‘for various reasons’, that included the Covid-19 Pandemic situation restricting his arrival in Europe and also his re-entry into China.
With so little time to settle into his new team, Abt is certainly back in at the deep end, but has already had the benefit of driving the NIO FE-005 machine on team filming day and on the team’s simulator.
After such a long time, jumping into a new Formula E race car, @Daniel_Abt shared how's the feeling about the first time working with NIO 333. #NIO333FE #ABBFormulaE #DanielAbt #AllTheWayAbt pic.twitter.com/OvvxQpq08z
— NIO 333 Formula E Team (@NIO333FormulaE) July 23, 2020
“I am pleased with everything so far,” said Abt in a team press release. “The team gave me a very nice welcome. There is still a lot to learn, a new team and a new car. I think we got into a good rhythm very quickly, it is not like I am driving a completely new car. All in all, I think the car felt very natural to me. I have seen there’s very good motivation within the team. They are really doing everything possible to get me up to speed. Also, I will work with team manager Roberto Costa again. We have worked together before, including in FE, GP2 etc.”
Although all teams on the Formula One grid employ the same chassis and tyres, powertrain and the energy recovery system are areas that each team can develop separately and is another variable for the German to adjust to, as is the software.
“Powertrain and energy recovery is not something we can really judge yet,” explains Abt. “You don’t really feel it when you just drive by yourself, but I feel quite positive. I am actually surprised how good the car feels and how good the software feels. It doesn’t feel different to what I am used to. By pure feeling, everything feels normal to me.
“The software is new to me, but it does not feel difficult to drive. I need to learn all the (steering wheel) switches, all the commands, and the names in order to communicate with the engineers. After spending a few hours in the simulator, I am already feeling quite good. We have covered many aspects of a race weekend in the simulator already. The team is also really helpful; they are giving me all the information I need to race.”
It is perhaps fitting that Abt should return to racing around his home circuit, although it will be without the huge crowds of fans cheering him on with banners and flags.
“The team needs to score points and it is my job as a driver to try my best to achieve that. With the experience I have, I will try to put in positive input. We don’t know what the others did in the past few months, but we will prepare for the race as best as we can. In Formula E, so many things can happen, your position is not certain until you go across the finish line. Scoring points is our goal and I will go for it, and I am sure we will be very happy if we can achieve it. I hope my wishes will come true at my favourite circuit!”