LONDON (Reuters) - Audi Formula E driver Daniel Abt was disqualified and ordered to pay 10,000 euros (8,956.5 pounds) to charity on Sunday for getting a professional gamer to compete under his name in an official esports race.
The German, who apologised for "having called in outside help", was also stripped of all points won to date in the all-electric series' Race at Home Challenge.
"I did not take it as seriously as I should have," said the 27-year-old, accepting punishment for sporting misconduct.
"I am especially sorry about this because I know how much work has gone into this project on the part of the Formula E organisation. I am aware that my offence has a bitter aftertaste but it was never meant with any bad intention."
Pro gamer Lorenz Hoerzing, Abt's 'ringer', was disqualified from all future rounds of the separate Challenge Grid competition.
The 15-lap race around a virtual Berlin Tempelhof track was won by Britain's Oliver Rowland for Nissan e.dams with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne second for Mercedes.
Vandoorne had made clear on his Twitch stream during the race that he did not think Abt was driving. He was backed up by Jean-Eric Vergne, a two-times champion in real life.
"Please ask Daniel Abt to put his Zoom next time he’s driving, because like Stoffel said I’m pretty sure he wasn’t in," the Frenchman said.
Abt, who had not featured on the virtual podium in any of the previous races, did not appear for online post-race interviews.
Formula E's real life series leader Antonio Felix da Costa appeared less concerned, however.
"It's just a game guys. We all know Daniel as a fun guy and a joker...," commented the Portuguese on Twitter.
The esports series features regular Formula E drivers competing on simulators from their homes and aims to provide some action for fans with racing on hold in real life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Challenge Grid is made up "gamers and influencers" competing for a prize of real-life track time in a Formula E car at a race weekend.
The disqualification meant series leader and compatriot Pascal Wehrlein moved up from fourth to third.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)