Formula 1's new points structure could help Jenson Button emerge as a serious threat for the world championship this year, reckons the sport's commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone.
With the FIA having announced that the world title will now be handed to the driver with the most wins, Ecclestone believes expected early season success for Brawn GP could put Button in contention to take the fight to the more favoured candidates.
When asked by autosport.com during a press conference hosted by Australian Grand Prix organisers about his predictions for the championship, Ecclestone said: "I suppose an awful lot will depend on these [new] regulations, but if Brawn has got it right, then there is a chance that for the first three races we could maybe see Jenson winning.
"Now that it is not points that decides the championship, if he has three races in his pocket then it is not bad - although I suppose in the end you have to look at the old timers like [Fernando] Alonso, Kimi [Raikkonen], Felipe [Massa] and Mr [Lewis] Hamilton."
Ecclestone believes that good results for Brawn GP early on, however, will not rest easy with rival teams - as he fears a potential protest about the legality of the diffuser on the BGP 001 being lodged at the season opener in Australia.
Brawn GP has joined Williams and Toyota in interpreting the diffuser regulations differently from other teams - which has allowed it to use a 'double decker' design.
Some rival teams have already questioned whether those diffuser designs are within the regulations, and autosport.com understands that one team has already sought clarification from the FIA regarding the matter. Ecclestone believes that the diffuser controversy will likely only reach a head in Melbourne.
"I guarantee whoever wins the races in Melbourne will be told they are cheating, and it doesn't matter who it is," he explained. "In this case it seems two teams, maybe three, certainly Toyota and Brawn, have interpreted the regulations in a different way to the other teams.
"The FIA at the moment says that interpretation is correct, but possibly some other teams will put in a protest before Melbourne. It won't affect racing but will be looked at after."