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UPDATE: Formula 1 responds to coronavirus

With seven F1 teams stepping up to help with ventilator shortage, more info from McLaren

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Remember the government put out a call for help with the production of ventilators for the NHS? Well, here’s what Formula 1 is doing to help.

Seven teams have come together to form Project Pitlane, and they’ve been tasked with focussing on three specific areas: the reverse engineering of existing medical devices, help with upscaling the production of existing designs, and the design and prototype manufacture of a new certification device.

Medical ventilators are bulky bits of equipment that artificially breathe for a person, and there’s currently a critical shortage. The UK is thought to have around 8,800 at the moment, but the NHS believes it will need over 30,000 before the COVID-19 crisis is over. Some are being sourced from the private sector, existing suppliers are also ramping up production, while firms like Dyson and Meggit (who make aerospace oxygen masks), and other automotive brands (including Prodrive and Nissan) are also involved.

F1’s expertise in rapid prototyping, innovative engineering and detailed assembly will be valuable, but Project Pitlane is not designing a new ventilator from scratch.

The seven teams involved (Aston Martin Red Bull, McLaren, ROKiT Williams Racing, Mercedes-AMG Petronas, BWT Racing Point, Renault DP World and Haas) comprise every UK-based F1 team, many of whom have engineering offshoots (McLaren Applied Technologies, Williams Advanced Engineering etc).

This is industry coming together. Top Gear applauds you all.

Update 30/3

A few more details on what one company – McLaren – is doing to help. As you’re probably aware there are three branches to McLaren’s business: Racing, Automotive and Applied (which used to be called Applied Technologies and has been involved in everything from bicycle design to data insights).

Racing’s machine shop is currently manufacturing ventilator components, while other departments (planning, purchasing, project management) are working with around 100 suppliers to procure parts for one of the ventilator designs.

Automotive is currently designing bespoke trolleys for the ventilators to sit on, and working in conjunction with Applied to design and build test equipment to make sure the ventilators meet all function and safety requirements. Applied is also involved in the electronics, while Automotive is helping to expand the production of existing devices.

There’s clearly a lot going on and the people involved have more important things to do than speak to Top Gear right now – we’re hearing reports of engineers working 20 hour days. Not just at McLaren, but across the board.

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