Growing up in Spain, Jaguar Racing Performance Engineer Cristina Manas had one goal: to work in motorsport.
“One [of the highlights] is to start going racing,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “It is not always ‘you just enjoy when you win’ - sometimes you have race weekends when you’ve done a good job with your team, but you still haven’t made it to the podium. Whether you win or not, it’s something you enjoy.”
After studying in her home country, Cristina made the bold decision to jump ship and move to the UK - a far cry from her small European town. However, thanks to her hard work and determination, she has achieved her dream and now follows the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship around the globe as an integral member of the Jaguar Racing team.
“I was always attracted to what the engineers do,” she says. “It definitely wasn’t [a difficult decision to move] because from the moment that you understand this is what you want to do, it is very limited on what you can do in Spain. It was quite clear from early on that if you wanted to maximise your chances of getting into the industry, this was one of the places to be.”
When she moved to the UK, Cristina studied at Cranfield University where she also joined the Formula Student team to gain additional experience which proved to be extremely beneficial.
“We decided to start our own team and we actually did it over a year where we started from scratch,” she says. “Everyone says from that project it’s quite a good one to get hands-on understanding from putting something together, try and manufacture it somehow, try and put it on the car, realise it doesn’t work, have to make adjustments around it. It is a very interesting project for anyone.”
Cristina essentially went straight from her studies to working in motorsport - something she acknowledges that she was very fortunate to do. In her current role as Performance Engineer for Mitch Evans, she also gets to travel to all of the Formula E rounds on the calendar, and has visited some very memorable locations with her job.
“At the end of the day, travelling is only a small percentage of the year because you spend a lot of time at the factory on development,” she says. “That’s almost like your hobby to go on a race weekend. It requires a lot of hours put into it, but it is definitely worth it.”
Formula E is a relatively new motorsport with its maiden season beginning in Beijing, China in 2014. Since then, it has moved onto its second generation of cars with the cutting-edge technology improving and evolving constantly. However, this doesn’t mean that the series isn’t without its challenges.
“During the race we do not have telemetry, so myself and the team put the best possible set-up on the Jaguar I-TYPE before the race starts, but once we’re out on the track, there is very little you can do,” Cristina says. “After the race starts, you only get the feedback that the driver gives over the radio and with that, we cannot really follow what the state of the car is. Sometimes you’re working against something and you don’t have the data you’d like to have from the car - real-time telemetry is banned.”
It is clear to see that Cristina is extremely passionate about her role, the team and the wider Formula E championship.
“Now that I am in Formula E, I am doing so much that I am not thinking ‘there is something else that would be better’,” she says. “There are also great advantages being in the size of the teams that we have in Formula E and the challenge we have in Formula E, the full map. As a championship, it has always been growing from the very first season and it doesn’t seem to have plateaued yet.”
Now having been working in the sport for three years, Cristina has one lasting piece of advice for people aspiring to work in motorsport.
“Work hard and try to do something outside of university or school,” she says. “Try to get some hands-on experience on something as it’ll also give you a bit of experience to understand if that’s what you want to do or not. Sometimes, at so young, it’s a bit difficult to really know what you want to do. So, anything hands-on you can do will give you a bit more of a hint if that’s what you should do and what you want to do. From there, keep working hard and get yourself educated the best you can.”
You can explore the current career opportunities at Williams Advanced Engineering here.