NACAM Formula 4 was supposed to start its 2021 season at the MSR Houston track in the United States this weekend, but statements by the series have put that fact into debate.
The event was marketed under the ‘Houston Grand Prix’ name – not to be confused with the Grand Prix of Houston that was an IndyCar round 10 times between 1998 and 2014 – and a timetable for the thee-race event was briefly issued publicly.
Pictures were posted by the series from free practice and qualifying, then five hours later it declared that the event was now a pre-season test rather than the opening round. After much internal and online confusion, series CEO Flavio Abed then stated “we start at Monterrey with four races per weekend”, insinuating that the May 4-5 round at Texas’s Motorsport Ranch was now either also a pre-season test or cancelled entirely.
Minutes after Abed’s statement, Mexican press reported on NACAM F4’s mid-round decision to turn the event into a pre-season test, seemingly closing the matter.
However, a paddock source told Formula Scout later that day that the pre-season test news was in fact “rumours”, and at the track competitors “don’t really know what’s going on”. Some time later, the same source got clarification from the series, being told the event was a championship round and “a misunderstanding with the social media people” had led to talks of it not being.
This point of view, contrary to Abed’s previous statement, was then supported by Abed himself the next day after three full-length races took place when he took to Instagram to congratulate 16-year-old Lucas Medina for winning the dry opening race from sixth on the grid and then finishing second in the two wet encounters that followed to earn the points lead.
Colombian karting graduate Medina was up against at least six other drivers, including Abed’s son Emil and series returnees Daniel Escoto and Alejandro Berumen.
Abed congratulated his son’s team for winning, but the series then tweeted again that it was only a pre-season test.
Colombia’s motorsport federation countered the series’ tweet, stating Medina was in fact leading the championship rather than a test (which by definition do not feature races).
Two more interesting details came to light after that, with a source revealing to Formula Scout that a motorsport organisation in the United States was unhappy with NACAM F4 racing in the country rather than its usual base of Mexico, and pressured it into the confusing ‘is it/is it not?’ state of affairs.
Another possible factor may have been that Emil Abed was running a livery that ran the logos of a political party his father is running for as a candidate to be federal deputy (the equivalent of a member of parliament) for the Alvaro Obregon borough of Mexico City in upcoming elections.
NACAM F4 is an FIA championship, and the FIA has a strict code on the mix of politics with its series, as witnessed when Santino Ferrucci attempted to have political branding on his Formula 2 car in 2018 and Lewis Hamilton was investigated for wearing a t-shirt last year.
“The FIA shall refrain from manifesting discrimination on account of race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, philosophical or political opinion, family situation or disability in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect,” the international governing body states.
In article 10.6.2 of the International Sporting Code, it says: “Competitors taking part in international competitions are not allowed to affix to their automobiles advertising that is political or religious in nature or that is prejudicial to the interests of the FIA.”
This may not have been an issue if NACAM F4 was racing in Mexico, but as it started its season overseas (and its NACAM name does refer to its commitment to all of North and Central America), it could have been another influencing factor in the races supposedly not counting for points as Abed Jr used the livery throughout the weekend.
Formula Scout has reached out to the series and Abed several times over the course of the weekend, but they have not responded.