As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to be felt around the world, F1 teams have committed to lending their engineering capabilities to support health services through the ‘Project Pitlane’ scheme

In conjunction with mechanical engineers at University College London, Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrain - the F1 team’s engine division - helped reverse engineer a breathing device.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing aid is designed to keep COVID-19 patients out of intensive care, and has already been used extensively in Italy and China.

According to UCL, 50% of patients in Italy who were given CPAP avoided the need for invasive mechanical ventilation.

With the UK facing a CPAP shortage, engineers worked around the clock at UCL’s campus on the project, and managed to achieve the first device production less than 100 hours from the first meeting on Wednesday March 18.

The device has now received approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.


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

“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.

UCL, UCLH and Formula One develop life-saving breathing aids for the NHS

“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.

“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.

“We were privileged to be able to call on the capability of Formula 1 – a collaboration made possible by the close links between UCL Mechanical Engineering and HPP.”

The British government has placed an order for 10,000 ventilators with a consortium that includes the seven UK-based F1 teams, as well as engineering giants Airbus, BAE Systems and Ford.

Government officials predicted they needed 30,000 ventilators, but currently only has 8,000 in use, with a further 8,000 on order from international suppliers.

Consortium chief Dick Elsy said: “This consortium brings together some of the most innovative companies in the world. I am confident this consortium has the skills and tools to make a difference and save lives.”

Gallery: Formula One develop life-saving breathing aids