Motorsport's governing body the FIA is exploring ways to reduce the thickness of the Halo cockpit device being slated for introduction in Formula One next year.
Halo will be mandatory for all teams to run from next season after the FIA announced the controversial device as its preferred system after the Shield device failed to impress during an unsuccessful debut at Silverstone. With the FIA keen to increase safety for drivers and reduce the risk of serious head injuries, it confirmed Halo "presents the best overall safety performance."
The Halo device has received criticism on aesthetic grounds, with Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda claiming F1 will regret committing to the cockpit protection system. However, the FIA is confident the design of Halo will improve visually before its introduction next year and says it is testing a revised version featuring a narrower central pillar.
"The central strut is currently 20mm," FIA safety director Laurent Mekies explained. "We feel that we have scope to reduce that thickness for the benefit of the drivers' forward vision. So we will be testing before next year, going as low as 16mm, and see how much we can push it."
F1 race director Charlie Whiting added the FIA has given permission for teams to undertake further track tests of the device on race weekends during the second half of 2017.
"We've told some teams that have asked that they can use them during FP1 and FP2," Whiting said. "And during in-season tests. Not [Pirelli] tyre tests, but for example the two-day test in Hungary -- we said they could use them at this test, the test after Abu Dhabi, and in free practice sessions on the first day at any event, as most of them did last year."
Mercedes junior George Russell became the first driver to run the device since its introduction was confirmed, as he sampled a thinner modification of Halo on Wednesday during the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test. The GP3 championship leader says he was positively surprised by how little Halo affected visibility.
"The Halo was more surprising than I expected," Russell explained. "I had a much better view than I ever imagined. One very funny positive was that at the end of the day when the sun was coming down the Halo actually blocked the sun from my eyes so I actually saw more than I would usually see on a circuit at 5:30pm at night when the sun is low.
"To be honest, from a driver's perspective when you're doing a qualifying lap or whatever the visibility is completely fine. The only hindrance could be potentially the start lights at the start of a race, but as I said I was extremely surprised by the Halo and how much I could actually see."