Four F1 teams gearing up to help Coronavirus technology fight

2020 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

Formula 1 teams are gearing up to help produce technologies to save lives in the Coronavirus pandemic, RaceFans has learned.

Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams have answered the call from governments who have asked for assistance from companies with expertise in high-level technology and engineering.

Among the technologies the teams could help develop are ventilators (pictured), which are needed to assist the most seriously-affected sufferers, as the Covid-19 virus attacks the lungs.

The topic was discussed in a conference call between F1’s marketing representatives and the teams yesterday. As the first four rounds of the F1 championship have already been postponed, and further disruption to the calendar is expected, teams with the necessary advanced engineering facilities will have spare capacity to assist.

Those teams have already begun researching how they can assist with developing and producing various much-needed medical equipment. The other teams are understood to be prepared to assist where they can.

As of yesterday, the World Health Organization reported the Coronavirus has killed 7,426 people worldwide.

Don't miss anything new from RaceFans

Follow RaceFans on social media:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

41 comments on “Four F1 teams gearing up to help Coronavirus technology fight”

  1. This is the kind of news we should be hearing right now. Bravo. This is probably for the first time in seventeen year’s I’ve been F1 that the sport is taking a genuine and selfless social responsibility.

    1. *I’ve been watching F1.

    2. Let’s declare them all WCC due to this initiative/response.

  2. Very good of those teams to have stepped up to the call. I’m sure being able to help people will be a great motivator for those back in the factory.

    F1 teams’ abilities in rapidly executing a design-build-prototype-repeat cycle is something that will be very beneficial in this instance.

    1. Absolutely @phylyp – all a fantastic motivator and great to see these teams lead the way. On the subject of leading the way do you think that after Mercedes have finalised their ventilator design that Racing Point will copy it to join in and help also :)

      Sorry – I’ll get my coat

    2. Is there a need for a prototyping cycle though? Ventilators were invented around the time of F1 itself in the 50s, and the current form factor hospitals use has been more or less the same for 20 years.

      The main area of need as I understand it is simply the number of units available. I’m sure F1 teams will make a valuable contribution to this, but as are part of an operation that will turn out manufacturing volumes simply unheard of in F1. Perhaps they will be able to help with complex tooling needs for the actual production lines rather than making the units themselves.

      1. This is a fair point, and as an f1 engineer (and husband of a Doctor) I agree with you that production lines are what are needed. However, the difficulty is that to generate a production line the machines etc… need to be in place… this takes time. Therefore f1 teams, given their prototyping expertise, will attempt to fill this gap as the ventilators will be required in weeks/days if possible…. but again, I agree you have a valid point.

  3. That’s really cool. The best F1 news I’ve heard since the whole covid19 became a pandemic. Nice one.

  4. Good to see this, with their great skill at fast action to solve things with a high degree of accuracy, I am sure this will help.

  5. Great to see organisations not normally associated with public health throwing their weight behind the problem. Also shows the depth of knowledge and expertise in these teams that they can shift their focus so quickly.
    It proves the worth of teams being able to design and manufacture their own parts and equipment independently. Instead of a relying on a handfull of generic suppliers as in other forms of Motor Sport.

  6. The teams are gearing up to help produce ventilators etc… But is the NHS/UK Govt buying them from the teams? Or are they doing it for free to help those that need it?

  7. There are a lot of people who are going to be sitting around not doing lots when they could be helping so I think this is great. I hope there are a lot more innovative ideas around how people can be used in the coming weeks.

    On the ventilators, I hope they partner with companies who mass manufacture things. They of course aren’t going to do this because they are really smart people, but do I do see a danger of a Formula 1 engineer wanting to make the best thing possible out of carbon fibre and magnesium. It would probably be better to come up with an older design that can be mass manufactured quickly.

  8. When I read about companies being asked to help with this, my first thought was F1 teams. Very happy to see this.

  9. The must have read the comment on the subject, made here earlier in the week.

  10. That’s an interesting story as they are actually sending all the employees home for early shutdown.

  11. Good for you F1 teams. Thank you.

    I imagine these will be the most aerodynamic ventilators ever made. :-)

  12. Great. someone needs to invent the bubble boy suit.

    1. There are things like even the humble face mask that could do with an upgrade. Covid-19 appears to be from 80 to 160 nm in size. Blue light has a wavelength of 490 – 450 nm, so a scientist wouldn’t be able to see it with a regular microscope, they could only see it with something like a scanning electron microscope. I’m not sure how F1 teams can improve our chances of survival, but I think it’s great they are trying to help with their expertise. I really think time is of the essence. I’m pretty sure we don’t have 18 months to think about this. My belief is every industry needs to be seeing how. They say that if you can see light (shortest wavelength is 450 nm) through a face mask, then the Covid-19 virus would be able to waltz through the gaps. So a mask that can stop the virus and isn’t expensive would be very much appreciated.

      1. A bad mask is even worse. The virus can stay alive for several hours on the mask. So your chances of getting infected with a bad mask only increases.
        Most of the shelf masks are in fact dustmasks and very unsuitable for this purpose. Thet do not fit perfect and leaving a grand canyon of infection points.

      2. The primary purpose of those generic masks is to trap some of the virus laden moisture that is expelled when one coughs (or breathes, for that matter).
        Droplets of moisture are significantly larger than viruses.

  13. Good to see this. Hopefully they are being paid for their efforts, along with suppliers downstream etc. so it will also be helping the economy.

    It will be interesting to see if similar things occur in other countries with other series – I’m sure there’s the same sort of engineering and fabrication capabilities among NASCAR, Indy and Supercars etc where efforts can be repurposed to provision of medical gear.

    Maybe drivers and key people could also get on social media and ask people to stop panic buying and hoarding as well – seems this generation listen more to social media influencers than prime ministers and government officials.

    1. @dbradock

      I’m sure there’s the same sort of engineering and fabrication capabilities among NASCAR, Indy and Supercars etc where efforts can be repurposed to provision of medical gear.

      I can’t say for sure about NASCAR but Indy being a spec series and the Supercars being off the shelf modifications of road cars.
      They would do very little in house, so I’m not sure they would have the resources or the engineering expertise to design and manufacture.
      At best they would have limited ability I would think.

      1. @johnrkh – quite true although the all have limited fabrication facilities most would still have a lot of “build” capability currently being under utilised and most have engineers involved at some level.

        Perhaps they could work with their downstream supply chain who may also have a gap now they’re not supplying replacement parts, panels, chassis etc whereby they design and develop the necessary working parts, teams do the final build – there’s probably room for a number of avenues to be explored rather than just implement mass lay offs.

        Just throwing ideas about – the entire economy as we know it seems to be teetering so anything that can generate work for people would be pretty welcome I’d think.

        1. I think you are right about that @dbradock – Surely teams have 3D printers, clever engineers and facilities to repair and design some parts, the NASCAR teams have a very broad group of engineers, the big teams do a lot themselves @johnrkh. And designing things quickly, cleverly and have their supply chain churn them out could well be the way to keep them busy doing something our society needs badly right now.

  14. Whilst the F1 industry is to be congratulated for their willingness to step up to the plate don’t forget that there is one additional incentive….self interest. Always a guaranteed motivation to help get a result. Well done.

    1. Are you saying saving lives gives teams an extra tenth through Eau Rouge?

      1. Nope. I believe what Kenji meant was just it could be a totally different story and nobody would give a damn, if there was possibility to gain even one hundredth instead of locking facilities down and ‘doing nothing’. And this is opportunity go get something back from the pandemic crisis, becoming life-saving heroes who can also make some buck in the process… Nevertheless, admirable standout, if they’re able to help.

    2. …there is one additional incentive….self interest

      I’m not so sure it is the teams’ self interest, I believe it is more likely to be our human race self interest. Using the rates of increase from the beginning of March until now, and assuming they won’t change much, my calculations suggest two important statistics: 1) in 280 days everyone on the planet will have contracted the disease, and 2) in 232 days everyone will have been killed by this disease. Of course, as they say, there’s lies, damned lies, and statistics. The point, however, is looking at the current rates of progression, we don’t have several years to solve this problem, we need everyone with any remotely associated expertise to be working to either 1) find a cure, vaccine, whatever; and 2) find a cheap and easily manufactured defences against catching the virus.
      We need everyone to be doing what they can now, because once the virus starts to affect our ability to research it and manufacture ways to inhibit or defeat it then we are pretty much goners. I don’t see F1 being involved with finding a cure or a vaccine, but their expertise could help with producing better treatment equipment as well as better face masks, gloves, goggles, etc.

    3. Surely developing their 2021 car would be in their best interest, not building ventilators?…

      Instead of criticizing others, what have you done to help kenji?

  15. Yes, agree that’s a good initiative from f1 teams!

  16. Then, of course, there is this…….

  17. Would be nice if this initiative got some coverage in the media, esp TV news in the UK.
    Leading F1 story currently in the press is that Hamilton must have picked up the virus from Idris Elba….

    1. It is mainstream news in the UK, Heath and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock acknowledged and thanked F1 for their involvement in ventilator manufacture live on BBC1’s Question Time, Thursday 18th March.

      1. I got the date wrong, Thurs 19th March

  18. A ventilator can be a very, very simple machine, however the most useful ones provide assisted spontaneous breathing as opposed to mandatory breaths. This is where the F1 teams are probably in a better position to assist than regular engineering and I do wonder if they might come up with unforseen innovation.

    On a side note, that picture for the article is an anaesthetic machine. I can’t actually see if this machine is equipped with a ventilator although I assume it most probably does. These are not what we need. Standalone ventilators are much smaller and less complex than what is pictured.

      1. Yep, that’s a Hamilton (appropriately named!). Those are the ones we’ve ordered in as extras.

  19. Hakk The Rack
    19th March 2020, 13:46

    Fight for us! Bravo! Good luck.

  20. Ferrari have offered to share their confidential defeat technology to help defeat COVID-19.
    (Too soon?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.