Mercedes leads the Formula 1 effort to fight COVID-19 as new breathing device is approved by NHS

The racing team is one of seven Formula 1 outfits working to manufacture vital medical equipment for hospitals

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* The Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrain – the racing team’s engineering division – worked in collaboration with mechanical engineers at University College London (UCL) to reverse-engineer a breathing device

Mercedes Formula 1 engineers successfully begun production of a new breathing aid for use in hospitals just 100 hours after the first meeting. The Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrain – the racing team’s engineering division – worked in collaboration with mechanical engineers at University College London (UCL) to reverse-engineer a breathing device called the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which has been used in China and Italy. 

The CPAP is designed to keep COVID-19 patients out of intensive care and, according to UCL, has a 50% success rate, but hospitals in the UK face a severe shortage of the equipment. Engineers managed to produce the first successful device just 100 hours after an initial meeting on Wednesday 18 March, and have received approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. A short clinical trial of 100 devices at UCL will precede a rapid roll out across the UK.

"The Formula 1 community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the 'Project Pitlane' collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects," said Mercedes HPP chief Andy Cowell. “We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe."

Professor Tim Baker of UCL Mechanical Engineering added: "Given the urgent need, we are thankful that we were able to reduce a process that could take years down to a matter of days.” >>

Related: Prestige British watchmaker Bremont offers to help manufacture ventilators

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* Mercedes is joined by Red Bull, Racing Point, Haas, McLaren, Renault and Williams, as well as the teams’ technology arms to make medical equipment

The CPAP project is just one part of Project Pitlane – a collective of seven UK-based Formula 1 teams that are working to assist the government in rapid production of medical equipment. Mercedes is joined by Red Bull, Racing Point, Haas, McLaren, Renault and Williams, as well as the teams’ technology arms. 

"In each instance, Project Pitlane will pool the resources and capabilities of its member teams to greatest effect, focusing on the core skills of the F1 industry: rapid design, prototype manufacture, test and skilled assembly,” said an F1 statement. "F1's unique ability to rapidly respond to engineering and technological challenges allows the group to add value to the wider engineering industry's response.”

The British government has predicted hospitals will need 30,000 ventilators, but currently only has 8,000 in use with 8,000 on order from international suppliers.