LONDON (Reuters) - A row over the legality of three teams' cars is likely to erupt at Formula One's Australian season-opener next week and rumble on well beyond that, motor racing chief Max Mosley said on Saturday.
The International Automobile Federation (FIA) president told the Daily Telegraph that he expected teams to protest the rear diffusers on the Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams cars in Melbourne.
"It's a very clever device and you can make a very good case for saying that it's legal and a very good case for saying that it's illegal," Mosley said. "It's going to be difficult.
"What's actually happened is that teams are saying 'We think it's illegal for this and this reason'," he added.
"If there had been more time before the detailed objections to the system were sent in, I would probably have sent it to the FIA Court of Appeal before Australia. And actually I have given thought to that this week. But there isn't time.
"It wouldn't be fair. I think the thing will probably come to some sort of a head in Australia."
Brawn, the former Honda team under the new ownership of former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, have set the pace in recent tests while Toyota and Toyota-powered Williams have also been quick.
The regulations have undergone dramatic changes this season, particularly in the cars' aerodynamics.
There are grey areas, however, and the three teams have been accused of using too big a diffuser, a vital part designed to ensure the quick and smooth flow of air under the car and increase downforce.
Renault team boss Flavio Briatore said on Wednesday that the three teams had not respected the rules and he was considering making a protest.
Mosley said one possibility would be for the diffuser to be banned from the Spanish Grand Prix, the first race of the European season in Barcelona.
"But then those teams who say it is legal will say 'Why should we do that?' And those that say it's illegal will say 'Why should we lose an advantage for four races?'," added the Briton.
"And so probably what will happen is it will end up going to the stewards, who will make a decision. That will almost certainly be appealed by whichever side is disadvantaged. And then that will go to our Court of Appeal and be hammered out.
"It's not straightforward. I have an open mind on it at the moment - I can see it going either way. I really can. But somebody has to make their mind up and fortunately it's not my job," said Mosley.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ed Osmond)