Mercedes’ Formula 1 Engineers’ Produce Life-Saving Ventilators to Battle COVID-19

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by Rebekah Valero-Lee on

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt around the world, the engineering minds behind Mercedes Formula 1 are helping turn the tide in the battle against coronavirus by producing an innovative and lifesaving solution.

Mercedes High Performance Powertrains have produced engines that have won eight constructors’ championships and 10 drivers’ championships in Formula 1, but now this team of engineers have turned their skills to support health services through the ‘Project Pitlane’ scheme. The result? A non-invasive breathing aid that has received approval for use in the NHS to help patients affected by coronavirus.

Working with mechanical engineers at University College London (UCL), Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrain (the F1 team's engine division) have helped to reverse engineer a breathing device which is designed to keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care. The ventilator helps people with serious lung infections to breathe and avoid having to use ‘invasive mechanical ventilation’ – breathing devices that involve tubes through the skin or mouth, easing strain on hospitals and health care workers.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing device has already been used extensively in Italy and China with 50% of patients in Italy who were given CPAP avoiding intensive care (according to UCL).

Incredibly, engineers managed to produce the first device production in less than 100 hours from an initial meeting which was held on Wednesday 18th March.

The device has received approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and is a vital step to solve the UK’s CPAP shortage.

One hundred devices will be used at University College Hospital for clinical trials before rapid roll-out to hospitals across the country.

Andy Cowell, Mercedes HPP’s Managing Director, said:

“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.

“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.”

UCL’s Vice Provost, Health, Professor David Lomas, added that the collaboration “shows what can be done when universities, industry and hospitals join forces for the national good.”

This example of agility and ingenuity illustrates the power of teamwork and transferrable engineering skills. By being able to respond practically and ingeniously to solve real life crises, engineers were able to reduce a process that could take years down to a matter of days.

The other six UK-based F1 teams in Project Pitlane are also working to aid the UK’s efforts to treat patients suffering from coronavirus. Those teams are Red Bull, Racing Point, Haas, McLaren, Renault and Williams.

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