The motorsport community is helping lead the global fight against coronavirus.
Motorsport, among many other sports, has been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many events have already been postponed or cancelled.
The outbreak initially saw racing teams and manufacturers close their doors or halt production to stem the outbreak.
However, now the motorsport community is fighting back. Production lines and factories are being used collectively to help health services across the world.
Engineers at the Mercedes Formula 1 team’s engine department – Mercedes High Performance Powertrains – have been working with engineers from University College London (UCL) and clinicians at UCL Hospitals to reverse-engineer a breathing aid to help treat coronavirus patients.
The device, known as ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’ (CPAP), helps coronavirus patients with serious lung infections. It allows them to breathe without using more invasive methods of treatment, such as a ventilator.
The CPAP device is used regularly by the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom to help patients with breathing difficulties. It has been used extensively across Italy and China to treat coronavirus patients.
But with a high rise of coronavirus cases expected over the coming weeks, the NHS could suffer a severe shortage of ventilators.
The new device has already been approved for use by UK health regulators and a high roll-out production is expected imminently. Clinical trials of the device are taking place in London.
The process took just 10 days from planning to production - an incredible effort from all involved, including those in motorsport.
CPAP machines work by pushing a mixture of air and oxygen through a patient’s airways at a continuous rate, increasing the amount of oxygen into the lungs.
Professor Tim Baker of UCL Mechanical Engineering said: "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. From being given the brief, we worked all hours of the day, disassembling and analysing an off-patent device. Using computer simulations, we improved the device further to create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production.”
Mercedes’ efforts are part of a wider motorsport collaboration. UK-based Formula 1 teams are joining forces to offer expertise where needed. Dubbed ‘Project Pitlane’, the likes of Red Bull, Haas, McLaren, Mercedes, Racing Point and Williams are working collectively to respond to the UK Government’s plea for help in manufacturing more medical devices.
Efforts redistributed to help fight
Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes HPP, said: "The Formula One 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 time frame."
Motorsport is reacting quickly to aid the fight against coronavirus. Many automobile manufacturers are exploring ways to help in the production of much-needed medical equipment.
News agency Reuters report bosses from Ferrari and Fiat already met with a company that produces ventilators in Rome.
In Germany, Porsche has stepped up its social commitment in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The marque is redistributing its expertise to aid in several ways, including the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff.
Porsche and Fiat have both made sizeable donations to help fund the fight, too.
Across North America, General Motors is partnering with Ventec Life Systems to mass-produce critical care ventilators and surgical masks for frontline medical staff.
GM and Lamborghini are both manufacturing protective facial masks for frontline medical staff. The Italian marque's saddlery staff are making 1,000 face masks a day. Lamborghini is also producing 200 3D-printed medical protective shields per day.