F1 team steps up for virus patients
Mercedes helped bridge gap between oxygen masks and ventilators
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.