McLaren's chief aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou says the new Halo cockpit protection device opens up opportunities to gain aerodynamic performance as well as having some obvious downsides.
The Halo will be mandatory on all F1 cars this year and is designed to offer extra head protection for drivers. The titanium structure will be the same on all cars, but designers have been given a small amount of leeway under the regulations to shroud the Halo in a bespoke carbon fibre fairing.
Those fairings can be used to direct airflow to cooling ducts and aero-sensitive parts of the car, and while Prodromou says the first priority will be minimising lost performance, it will also open up new avenues of aerodynamic development.
"Aero wise it's certainly not penalty free," he said. "There certainly is a challenge there to either cope with it in the first instance -- let's call it damage limitation -- and thereafter look at opportunity and exploitation.
"It does open up some avenues that are possibly interesting to look at. I'm sure there is going to be quite a variety of different solutions out there. The scope is quite limited, we've got this allowance around the basic shape, but there is opportunity there as an aerodynamicist.
"Everyone is going to be faced with challenges of how it affects the flow [of air] into the engine, how it affects flow into certain cooling ducts that people had in that area, including ourselves, and how it affects the flow to the rear wing. But also on the flip side there are opportunities there and we can maybe try and tap into them where you couldn't before."
However, Prodromou does not think the Halo will be a major differentiator in performance and suspects most teams will end up with similar designs as the season progresses.
"I'd probably give it half a season and one would imagine everyone would have converged. That would be my rough guess."
McLaren's chief engineer Matt Morris believes different approaches to mounting the Halo could also lead to a variety of designs where the two rear parts of the Halo meet the chassis.
"There are various ways of putting the structure on that [part of the chassis] and maybe we'll see some differences. The shape of the chassis there doesn't lend itself to a lot of load going into it. Those top bits of the chassis stand up and are not very well supported and then you bolt the Halo onto it, pushing it and trying to peel the Halo away from the driver - it's not a very sympathetic structure."