As the F1 community prepares to return to racing at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix later this week, Renault Sport Racing reflects on the extraordinary, unprecedented period of the last four months.
In just over 100 days the world has completely turned on its head.
#WeRaceAsOne, the outreach campaign recently introduced by F1, recognises sport can play a key role in today’s changed world. Not only can sport unite people and overcome differences, it can be used as an agent for future change. The world now faces two key challenges: promoting equality for all people, regardless of race, sex, religion, origin or orientation and overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.
F1 did not – and will not - sit idle and Renault Sport Racing also mobilised. It became involved in several projects to respond to the extraordinary challenge of Coronavirus, as Renault Sport Racing staff from Enstone and Viry coordinated different streams to help frontline workers; from the development of ventilators, trolleys, other pieces of personal protective equipment to communications devices.
We now look at just some of the areas the teams across France and the UK worked on.
B-roll footage with key project leaders discussing each stream is available in the link below and will be uploaded to the Renault Sport media site:
VENTILATOR DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
Renault DP World F1 Team became involved in the design and development of a brand-new ventilator device to help in the fight against COVID-19 as part of a ground-breaking collaboration between the NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, Innovate UK and Project Pitlane, the unique alliance of Formula 1 teams. Olympus Keymed also donated time and expertise to the advancement of the project.
The BlueSky ventilator was the adaptation of a simple palm-sized ventilator concept into a robust bedside device to offer critical care and trauma management to patients requiring immediate ventilatory support. Working together, Project Pitlane was able to shorten the design and production phase of this prototype ventilator to just over three weeks.
Red Bull and Renault led the charge with mechanical design, manufacturing, electronics and control systems. The duo reignited its history of collaboration – together the pair won four World Championships – to drive the incredible project forward. Haas and Mercedes also collaborated on mechatronics and test equipment while McLaren Applied Technologies manufactured prototype electronic circuit boards.
“BlueSky came to us through Innovate UK as one of their young medical engineers, Dr. Alistair Darwood, had a concept for a low-cost ventilator,” explains Renault Sport Racing Technical Advisor, Bob Bell. “It was a real collaborative effort between teams, with the work divided up to suit the strengths of the individuals involved.
“This project was not about the technology we use on the cars, but more about benefitting from the approach we take and the methods we use in F1; the speed and agility to produce a brand-new device in a very compressed timescale. It would normally take two to three years for this kind of project to come to fruition; but we have a lot of procedures in F1 that allowed us to accelerate it.
“Several departments contributed from within Renault Sport Racing, in particular the Electronics and Control Systems Groups who worked exceptional hours with fantastic support from production, planning, purchasing and also the race team guys, who got very heavily involved at the end as we geared up to produce devices in large quantities at both Enstone and Red Bull.
“Ultimately BlueSky was cancelled by the government. It was a disappointment as we would have liked the project to go to the finish line, but at that point in the crisis the number of infections was dropping and the type of infections were becoming more complex, so the middle ground was deemed less essential.
“The inventor is however very keen that the device be used in other applications, including within the military. We are very proud to have contributed to this project, which could still help thousands of people in the future.”
Across the Channel, Renault Sport Racing contributed alongside Groupe Renault’s Technocentre engineering teams and the Grenoble-based Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) to the “Makers for Life” project, a collective of doctors and entrepreneurs in the Nantes region, to design an easily assembled, highly economical airway respirator.
At the beginning of April, members of the Groupe Renault engineering team travelled to Grenoble and later a team of ten engineers, electronics experts and designers from Renault Sport Racing.
Similarities between a ventilator and an engine are not immediate, but both provide compressed air with regulated flow and pressure. A first version, MAKAIR, designed by the “Makers for Life” teams and the CEA is undergoing clinical tests in Brest and Nantes Teachings hospitals after receiving the authorisation from the Agency for national drug safety and health products (ANSM), while a second industrial version called MAKAIR RE20, in tribute to the 2020 F1 engine, was constructed by the Renault Sport Racing team.
The project harnessed the exceptional network between all of the Group’s skills: corporate social responsibility, product-process engineering, manufacturing and logistics, quality, purchasing, industrial property, cost analysis and control of management.
About 15 artificial respirator prototypes were manufactured in the Technocentre Prototype Production Centre and, in accordance with the philosophy of the project, the ventilator was made Open Source to be accessible to the greatest number of people.
“The Makers project was launched in March,” comments Remi Taffin, Renault DP World F1 Team Engine Technical Director. “We were working with the AP-HP (Assistance Publique des Hôpitaux de Paris / Paris Hospital Trust) around other responses to the pandemic and were linked to the project as they needed specific help with a blower. To make a respirator you need air, so we adapted the principle of an F1 engine with an electrical motor. We conducted a lot of work through 3D printing so everything could be picked up by other suppliers if required.
“We also helped in the design of the first iteration of the hardware and consulted on how to produce, which led to the second iteration including software, the MAKAIR RE20. The process took around two months, when it would normally take around two years; a huge testament to the passion and dedication of the group of people who helped.”
In the wake of this spirit of solidarity, Renault’s own development of the RE20 respirator will be Open Source and licensed free of charge, including the 11 patents filed. This free access will allow organisations in crisis situations to make this model of low-cost artificial respirator.
In a time of unprecedented change, Renault DP World F1 Team found a novel solution to help boost the fight against Coronavirus through enabling researchers to utilise the team’s vast computer resources for a digital project called Folding@home. Started almost two decades ago, the Folding@home project brings people together to share their unused computer power for greater good. A specific COVID-19 project was initialised for further research of the Coronavirus and investigating all possible cures.
Renault DP World F1 Team joined this cause in March by supplying its own innovative and state-of-the-art computer power.
Ben Hampshire, IT Race Manager at Renault DP World F1 Team, said: “Coronavirus caused delays all around the world, and as a direct consequence several races were postponed and cancelled. We decided we wanted to put to work the spare computer capacity that we have at the Enstone factory, which would normally be busy crunching lap statistics and assisting in running the race cars and strategy. By becoming involved in a project such as Folding@Home, we helped work towards a common goal of understanding COVID-19.”
Renault DP World F1 Team contributed to a new type of aerosol shield designed to improve the treatment of COVID-19 patients and safety of clinical staff.
Designed to keep frontline staff safe during the intubation of patients, the innovative ‘Oxford Box’ was developed by businesses in the Silverstone Technology Cluster (STC) network, including Cluster Ambassador Dr Cristiana Pace’s Enovation Consultancy Ltd, motorsport engineering company and STC member One Group Engineering and the Oxford University Hospital (OUH) NHS trust. After extensive trials and the training of key clinical staff, OUH approved the use of the Oxford Box across its four hospitals in the Oxford region.
Its design was enhanced with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) techniques normally reserved for the development of Formula 1 race cars. The team replicated and simulated the behaviour of fluid particles (aerosols) released when coughing, greatly increasing the protection offered to medics over PPE. The use of sophisticated modelling techniques also reduced the timeframe for production by over half.
Renault DP World F1 Team’s Head of CFD, Paul Cusdin, said: “We modelled the speed, direction and air flow as we would in F1 and were thus able to advise the best placement, size and shape of the box to take its protection level to near 100% for the treating medic.
“The models were complex to establish, but by applying the principles we would do in developing a car, we were able to improve its protection and condense development from months to weeks.
“F1 is once again proving its capacity to apply its thinking, technology and processes in speeding up the help we can give to those in genuine need. I hope this will be yet another tool in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.”
The Penlon ventilator was an existing model made by a local Oxfordshire company in Abingdon, supported by a larger consortium of UK industrials, whose volume production was scaled up almost overnight. Various F1 teams became involved, some in the engineering and others including Renault DP World F1 Team provided an army of testers, who would verify the devices as they came off the production line. Almost 70 volunteers from Renault DP World F1 Team worked in a shift pattern over a number of weeks.
Kayleigh Egan, Renault DP World F1 Team Performance Optimisation Section Leader, commented, “I became involved in the project as I wanted to help in some way in the pandemic. I volunteered to test the ventilators but ended up running a night shift, so supporting colleagues, answering queries, managing problems and assuring the flow of ventilators over the shift to get to the NHS. We worked four nights on and four nights off, which was hard to adapt to initially. In F1 we are used to working hard for a common goal, working methodically at speed and making decisions as quickly as possible and all this came to the fore. In my day job I need to pay attention to detail and listen to colleagues to move faster as a whole and this was very useful. There’s a great sense of satisfaction of being able to have contributed and I hope I, and the other volunteers across Renault and other F1 teams, have helped.”
The development of ventilator trollies is another story that demonstrates F1’s ability to be able to react to a design challenge and find a solution which can be made quickly and in quantity if necessary. Renault DP World F1 Team was asked through Project Pitlane to re-design a concept for a trolley which held ventilators so they could be wheeled around hospital wards.
A small team of Renault design engineers re-designed it in a matter of days. The design was then passed to the fabrication department, who produced a number of prototypes. Ultimately the design was given to Sagentia to be produced into fully functional trolleys for their ventilators.
Raphael Willie, Deputy Metallics Production Manager, added: “We received a basic sheet design and discussed its pros and cons. We discussed how the general design could be tweaked to make it stronger and more rigid but remain easy to manufacture. We then looked at whether we could realistically and successfully manufacture a small number of protoypes in house. We decided on a path of action and materials. The component folded up perfectly and highlighted some small issues that were fed back to the design. It was a very good example of concurrent engineering between design and manufacturing.”
Renault DP World F1 Team is currently collaborating on a communications device with a working title of COVICOM. One of the big issues clinicians face as they are dressed in full PPE is communication. The protective clothing restricts their voices and makes it very difficult to hear; a real issue when conducting complex procedures or discussing sensitive subjects with patients’ relatives.
To overcome the problem, a clinician at Leicester University Hospital has developed a small voice amplifier that could be clipped to a belt and heard through an earpiece.
Renault is collaborating on the devices, predominantly advising on electrical design with support from mechanical design for the packaging and casing.
RENAL FLUID PRODUCTION
In the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, renal filtration fluid became critical for the NHS. Many patients who required ventilation had kidney damage as a result of the disease and there was a pressing need to provide renal filtration, which flushes a cocktail of chemicals through the kidneys to keep them functioning.
There was a real concern there would be shortage of this fluid, and indeed the devices to pump it around the body. Renault DP World F1 Team’s partner bp instantly came on board and worked with the NHS to help source the fluids from around the globe through their supply chain.
Thankfully the crisis was short lived and passed, so the project wasn’t needed, but it did show a great deal of spirit and cooperation between the NHS, bp and Renault Sport Racing to give help as needed.
“Many more projects were launched and assisted by Renault in the COVID-19 pandemic and work continues to this day to provide support when needed and asked for,” summarises Bob Bell. “What I personally enjoy about F1 is the fact it is a family. We’re all deadly rivals on Sunday afternoon but outside of that window we all work very collaboratively otherwise the whole show could not happen. We came together to provide coordinated help when needed, and hopefully many people across different sectors will have benefitted from this unlikely alliance.”
As we go back to racing, the prospects opened up by this Corporate Social Responsibility - Technical association on both sides of the Channel are promising. Feedback will be given to feed Renault Sport Racing and its CSR programme both in substance and in projects.