F1 team steps up for virus pa­tients

Mercedes helped bridge gap be­tween oxy­gen masks and ven­ti­la­tors

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS -

For­mula 1 team Mercedes has helped to de­velop a breath­ing aid that could keep coro­n­avirus pa­tients out of in­ten­sive care and ease some pres­sure on Bri­tain’s strained health ser­vice.

As part of a com­bined ef­fort in­volv­ing seven Bri­tain-based teams, Mercedes worked with en­gi­neers at the Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don and clin­i­cians at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don Hos­pi­tal to adapt and im­prove a de­vice that bridges the gap be­tween an oxy­gen mask and the need for full ven­ti­la­tion.

The de­vice, known as con­tin­u­ous pos­i­tive air­way pres­sure, has been used ex­ten­sively in hos­pi­tals in Italy and China to de­liver oxy­gen to the lungs of coro­n­avirus pa­tients dur­ing the pan­demic.

UCL said the adapted de­vices have been rec­om­mended for use in Bri­tain and that 100 of them are be­ing sent to its hos­pi­tal for clin­i­cal tri­als.

There is the po­ten­tial for quick roll­out by Mercedes to hos­pi­tals across the coun­try.

Tim Baker, a pro­fes­sor from

UCL’s depart­ment of me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing, said clin­i­cians called on the “ca­pa­bil­ity of For­mula 1” to re­duce a process “that could take years down to a mat­ter of days,” with the adapted de­vice tak­ing less than 100 hours to de­velop from an ini­tial meet­ing.

“We have been proud to put our re­sources at the ser­vice of UCL,” said Andy Cow­ell, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Mercedes, “to de­liver the CPAP project to the high­est stan­dards and in the fastest pos­si­ble time frame.”

The tech­nol­ogy arms of six other teams — Red Bull, Haas, McLaren, Re­nault, Wil­liams and Rac­ing Point — has con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ing of the med­i­cal de­vices in the fight against the virus, as part of what F1 has la­beled “Project Pit­lane.”

McLaren, for ex­am­ple, told The Associated Press it has been fo­cused on com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ing for ven­ti­la­tors, and is “ad­di­tion­ally de­ploy­ing plan­ning, project man­age­ment and pur­chas­ing teams to pro­cure all parts to help ramp-up pro­duc­tion.”

The CPAP ma­chines work by push­ing a mix of oxy­gen and air into the mouth and nose at a con­tin­u­ous rate, help­ing to in­crease the amount of oxy­gen en­ter­ing the lungs. They are used rou­tinely by Bri­tain’s Na­tional Health Ser­vice but are in short sup­ply cur­rently.

There have been almost 20,000 con­firmed cases of COVID-19 in Bri­tain, with more than 1,200 deaths.

Mercedes is the lead­ing team in F1, with de­fend­ing cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton as its top driver.

While Red Bull played a role in the breath­ing de­vice, a team of­fi­cial pro­posed hold­ing a train­ing camp that would ex­pose driv­ers to the coro­n­avirus so they could build im­mu­nity to the dis­ease while the sea­son is sus­pended.

The idea by mo­tor sports ad­viser Hel­mut Marko was re­jected by the team.

Marko said it would be good for the team’s driv­ers to be in­fected now so they could re­cover in time for sched­uled races later in the year.

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