When teams voted unanimously last month to overhaul Formula 1's qualifying system with an elimination-style format, it seemed a formality that it would happen.

By: Jonathan Noble, Formula 1 Editor

When teams voted unanimously last month to overhaul Formula 1's qualifying system with an elimination-style format, it seemed a formality that it would happen.

But in F1 nothing is ever quite as simple as it first appears, and the tortuous route that the rule change has followed over recent days still may not be at an end.

For while it appears that the FIA's World Motor Sport Council approved the idea for the qualifying tweak last week, a small detail of the regulation-wording needing to go back to the teams could yet be significant.

And it is not impossible that a last-minute spanner is thrown into the works that derails the change for Melbourne.

Ferrari opposition

There were two significant events that happened within days of the qualifying rule getting unanimous approval, and it is hard to be sure if they were coincidence or directly related.

First, Bernie Ecclestone leaked to the media that he had been told by his staff that it was impossible to get the timing systems sorted for the new format, and that the change would have to be delayed until the Spanish Grand Prix.

Such a situation seems incredible, for it seemed that the generic tweaks to shifting timing screen, TV-graphics and other data would take a matter of days, not nearly three months.

Then, just a few days later, Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne claimed that – despite his team having originally voted in favour of the concept – he was sceptical that it was the right thing to do.

"I think we need more discussions about the new qualifying format," he told reporters during a media briefing at the Geneva motorshow.

"We must be careful not to upset the system. I'm not sure Ferrari can accept Bernie's ideas. We need to understand it better - and I don't think every team agrees with the proposal."

Had Ecclestone's leak been aimed at pre-empting Ferrari's new stance?

Governance process

F1's rules structure are similar to elections, in that once your decision is made you cannot change your mind after the event.

So, while Marchionne may have made clear he was not in favour, there were no grounds for him to withdraw the approval that team principal Maurizio Arrivabene had given originally.

However, the state of the regulations – and the fact that fresh team consultation was going on – helped serve up a fresh layer of intrigue aboutFerrari's influence.

For during a meeting with F1 race director Charlie Whiting at Barcelona's second F1 test, team managers agreed a plan to tweak the format – with Q1 and Q2 being knock-out and the final session sticking to the old format.

However, as this rule concept was different to the original plan drafted, it would in theory have meant starting the rules process again, and going back through the Strategy Group and F1 Commission for approval.

In such a case, any veto by Ferrari would have been enough to stop the rules in their tracks, and leave the old format in place.

FIA decision

The team managers' suggestions did not move forward and instead at Friday's FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting, the governing body approved the original idea.

Under the limits of the FIA WMSC's jurisdiction, it only has the power to approve or reject rules, which is why the first proposal was supported.

However, sources have suggested that Ferrari – which sits on the WMSC – voiced some concern about the issue and suggested it was not in favour of the specifics of the rules.

While the details of the conversations – and any opinion that Arrivabene put forward in the Geneva FIA meeting – have not been revealed, it is interesting to note that the WMSC press release did not say for definite that the qualifying change was happening immediately.

Instead, it said the new format 'should' be in place for the Australian Grand Prix.

Furthermore, it dropped a firm hint that what had been agreed at the F1 Commission was only about the concept of elimination qualifying – not specific rules.

Indeed, the FIA release said about the new qualifying format - "the principles of which were unanimously accepted by the F1 Commission."

This is very different to saying the F1 Commission had fully accepted the regulations.

It was therefore significant that at the very bottom of the FIA release, it said: "The wording of the Sporting Regulations relating to this new qualifying format will be submitted to the F1 Strategy Group and F1 Commission."

This means that, for F1's governance procedures to have been followed to the word, the regulations relating to qualifying must go back to the teams, and will only get approved if there is unanimous support.

Back to square one

Although there is less than a fortnight to go before the Australian Grand Prix, that it still plenty of time for necessary e-votes to be cast for the Strategy Group, F1 Commission and WMSC to approve the format change for Australia.

But with unanimous team approval needed, any block in the system now that is not in support of regulation changes will in theory scupper such a change.

It will be fascinating to see whether or not Ferrari (or indeed any other teams) will stand by recent doubts about the new format and not support the rule changes.

Or will Ferrari instead simply approve the rules, safe in the knowledge that the situation has highlighted enough how governance processes must be followed to the letter in F1 – and that Maranello's chiefs will not allow changes to the regulations to be forced through without the proper consultation procedures.

Old rules in place

As of now, the FIA's official 2016 F1 regulations state that qualifying is exactly the same as it was last year.

Only if all teams support the change to an elimination format now will that be changing for Melbourne.

Let's see what comes out of the FIA's Paris headquarters over the next week.

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