How rival F1 teams united in battle against Covid-19

The recent struggles of Formula One once more contorting itself over budget cap disagreements have illustrated the fierce, often hostile, rivalry that is an almost inexorable current flowing through the sport. With the budget-cap changes finally agreed, F1’s focus now is on the calendar – and resuming those rivalries – so it is perhaps worth noting there was ample evidence asthe coronavirus outbreak engulfed the world of just what a remarkable force the sport can be when it bends its collective will to a single purpose. Yet for the man at the heart of the operation it was no surprise that when it mattered the sport delivered a triumph of camaraderie over competitive instinct. Two days after the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled on 13 March, Mark Gillan, the chief technology officer of Innovate UK – a publicly funded agency promoting research and development – called F1’s chief technical officer, Pat Symonds, to discuss how the sport might adapt to meet the needs of the NHS. During the same period, the Penlon ventilator, built in collaboration with a consortium, had been re-engineered from scratch to allow it to be manufacturedat speed, tested and approved. We ended up on the grid thanks to them, so theenthusiasm for Project Pitlane did not surprise me in the least.” Slideshow: How have previous drivers performed in their debut season at McLaren? “F1’s strengths are pace, teamwork and the ability to rapidly manufacture complex systems in tight timelines and take on board new ideas,” he says. “They are also very good at competitive analysis, looking at a complex system, understanding howto reverse-engineer it and make it.” Daily virtual meetings began to harness these skills at every UK-based team, with Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault, Williams, McLaren, Racing Point and Haas volunteering enthusiastically. They coordinated with clinicians to identify targets, with the feedback on the effects of Covid-19 providing a constant reminder of how important the work was. It’s a remarkable, emotional feelingfor the people who have worked on it and the whole company.” What was notable was the unreserved extent to which the teams came together, the formerly sacrosanct access to their factories now open to one another. Great credit to them for the way they were able to operate and push aside traditional competitiveness to drive at this single goal.” Slideshow: How have previous drivers performed in their debut season at Ferrari? BlueSky was deemed a success although, with the understanding of treating the virus having changed atthat point, not put into production. It was, as Gillan stresses, a truly collective effort and while rivalries will begin anew and the politicking continues, for now Project Pitlane should be lauded as the time F1 put it all aside and did the right thing.