McLaren is harnessing the “entire power” of its Formula 1 team to assist the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 response, according to team principal Andreas Seidl.
The team is one of seven UK-based F1 teams united under the ‘Project Pitlane’ banner to aid the UK with its target to increase ventilator stocks in order to be able to treat coronavirus patients.
According to the BBC, McLaren’s factory has been involved in the production of the Penlon Prima ES02 ventilator model – which the UK has ordered 15,000 of after the design was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
“Obviously as soon as it was public that there is this big demand of producing these ventilators in the UK, straight away some of the engineers and also people from production volunteered to look into that,” Seidl said.
“And then we simply became part of this consortium, together with some other big brands and names and the other Formula 1 teams.
“And we put in action then our entire power we have in an F1 organisation – not just on production side, also on the engineering side, purchasing side and project management side, in order to play our role in manufacturing and assembling these ventilators.
“We’re supporting here with around 100 to 150 people at the moment. Some people via a home office, several people also in the factory on the machines producing parts or helping to do logistics.
“It’s simply impressive to see – not just on our side, looking at the entire F1 paddock – what we actually can produce within three-four weeks of time, when we have to.
“And it’s simply great to see how committed our people also [are] to work on this project. Some of the people are really working 20 hours a day with a clear knowledge and aim to hopefully save lives with what we are doing there.”
UK-based F1 teams have been involved in various medical projects under the ‘Project Pitlane’ banner, their efforts separated into three workstreams – reverse-engineering existing devices, creating new designs and increasing production.
Not every one of the projects will result in a UK government order, with it already known that the government decided against following through with a provisional request for the BlueSky portable ventilator model that a group including Renault and Red Bull has been cooperating on.
Speaking to Sky Sports earlier this week, BlueSky designer Alastair Darwood said he was hoping the model could “stand as a back-up device” or “help countries who perhaps don’t have the access to ventilators that we do”, whereas Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he was deeply encouraged by the sight of F1 arch-rivals Red Bull and Renault uniting for the cause.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, where competitive nature has been put to one side – in Milton Keynes we house side-by-side Renault, Enstone employees, we had all their volunteers, we had over 200 of our own volunteers, working non-stop on this project, working side by side with each other,” Horner said.
“For all the differences that Cyril [Abiteboul, Renault F1 managing director] and I have had over the years, our teams came together, in a Red Bull factory, with the mechanics working side by side in their different uniforms for one cause.
“Guys like [Renault tech advisor] Bob Bell and in particular [Red Bull chief engineering officer] Rob Marshall just working night after night to come up with solutions on the hoof, to keep this project driving forward. It was phenomenal to see, phenomenal.”
F1 teams have been involved in efforts to combat COVID-19 outside the UK, too. On Thursday, Ferrari announced it “has started to produce respirator valves and fittings for protective masks at its Maranello plant”.