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F1 team Mercedes to make design of new breathing aids freely available

CNN logo CNN 4/8/2020 By Aleks Klosok and Ben Church, CNN
a person sitting on a bed: A volunteer 'patient' with the newly developed CPAP device © James Tye/UCL A volunteer 'patient' with the newly developed CPAP device

The Mercedes Formula One team will make the design of its new breathing aids freely available to help healthcare systems around the world fight the coronavirus crisis.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices will help patients with lung infections to breathe more easily when an oxygen mask alone is no longer sufficient.

The device was developed by a team of Mercedes engineers and University College London (UCL), as well as clinicians at UCL Hospital. After patient evaluations at UCL Hospital and other London area hospitals, the device received regulatory approval last week.

An order for up to 10,000 devices has been placed by the British National Health Service (NHS). Mercedes' facility in Brixworth, England -- where the F1 engines are designed and developed -- has been repurposed to meet that demand and is expected to produce 1,000 units per day.

The new device was reverse-engineered from a previous model in less than 100 hours and received regulatory approval last week, a UCL statetment said. The revised design consumes 70% less oxygen than the earlier model.

"These life-saving devices will provide vital support to the NHS in coming weeks, helping to keep patients off ventilators and reducing demand on intensive care beds and staff," said Professor David Lomas, UCL's vice-provost.

"It is a phenomenal achievement that they are arriving at hospitals only two weeks after the first prototype was built. It shows what can be done when universities, hospitals and industry work together for the national good."

CPAP machines help to keep patients' airways open and increase the amount of oxygen entering the lungs by pushing air and oxygen into the mouth and nose at a continuous rate. UK-based Formula One teams are also helping to produce thousands of ventilators desperately needed by the country's National Health Service.

There have been 55,242 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK with at least 6,159 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

READ: Pep Guardiola's mother dies after contracting coronavirus

F1 furlough staff

Mercedes is offering a rare bit of good news in an otherwise chaotic F1 season which is yet to officially start.

Formula One also announced it has placed 50% of its staff into temporary furlough and CEO Chase Carey will take a significant voluntary salary cut as part of measures to reduce costs during the pandemic.

The furloughing of staff will be in place for two months to the end of May and means employees will receive 80 percent of their salary through a financial rescue scheme introduced by the British government.

F1 directors and executives have all voluntarily agreed to take a 20% pay cut.

Three teams -- McLaren, Williams and Racing Point -- have already put sections of their workforce on furlough, with each of the respective teams' drivers also taking a pay cut.

READ: Golf locks in its 2020 major schedule amid postponements and cancellations

Season yet to start

On Tuesday, the Canadian Grand Prix, which was set to be held on June 14, became the ninth race to be affected this season. Its postponement means the first scheduled race not to be postponed or canceled is the French Grand Prix on June 26.

The Australia and Monaco races have already been canceled and six more have been postponed to date -- Bahrain, Vietnam, China, Netherlands, Spain and Azerbaijan.

The sport's rules dictate a minimum of eight races must be held for a season to be defined as a World Championship and organizers are working on a reduced calendar of 15 to 18 events.

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