Formula One: Lewis Hamilton blasts Red Bull 'riot shield' safety screen

 Lewis Hamilton arrives at an autograph session in Sochi.
Lewis Hamilton arrives at an autograph session in Sochi. PHOTO: REUTERS

SOCHI, Russia (AFP) - World champion Lewis Hamilton wants Formula One to retain its mortal danger and to reject the latest form of head protection to be tested on Friday at the Russian Grand Prix.

The defending three-time champion said, after looking at the Red Bull team's "canopy" head protection system to be used by Australian Daniel Ricciardo in Friday's opening free practice, that it was "so bad - it looks like a bloody riot shield".

"If they're going to do this, then don't half-arse it. Go one way or the other. That screen looks so bad!" Ricciardo, who has called for the sport to be open to change and not to fear embracing a safer "new" future, is one of many drivers in favour of a head protection system.

The Red Bull system is an alternative to the 'halo' system devised and tested by Ferrari.

But Hamilton said: "You've got this cool, elegant futuristic Formula One car - and you've got a riot shield sitting on top of it.

"And (as to) the other one (the halo), the carbon fibre structure was obviously good, but Fernando (Alonso) wouldn't have been able to get out of the car, potentially, in his crash in Melbourne.

"But, on top of that, it is a good thing to see the FIA does take safety seriously. It is a constant thing that always needs to be worked on - as long as it doesn't affect the aesthetics, the style and the coolness of Formula One."

Red Bull believes that its system will be more popular and give the driver better visibility than the 'halo' system.

Head protection has been called for in F1 following a series of fatal accidents in motor sport in recent years, but Hamilton believes there is no need to change the sport's tradition for open cockpits.

"When I get in that car, I know that there is a danger," said Hamilton. "That's been the same since I started when I was eight years old.

"That's a risk that I am willing to take and that every single driver that's ever got in the car has been willing to take.

Ricciardo said he intends to do only one installation lap with the new safety device fitted.

"I will drive in FP1, do an installation lap with it," he said. "I'm sure I will get a lot of TV time in the first two minutes of the session - so I'd better comb my hair in the morning!

"It is quite a structure, it is going to affect the aero and all that, it's really just to see if it works and then we'll get on with our programme.

"At the front, it's pretty open. It's definitely one of those things you want to put on track, because things change when you move.

"It's easy to sit in the garage with it. So far, the impression with it is that it should be OK, visibility-wise.

"I think you've got to be open to a bit of change," he said. "Obviously it's different, but in 2009 the cars changed quite a lot - and I thought they were ugly as hell - but you got used to them and they refined them.

"It's different! You're used to seeing helmets - and the helmet is the only thing of the driver a spectator can see.

"Let's see! I've been for it because of the safety things and if it does save even one life, over the next 20 years, then you'd take that."