Formula E: How Jaguar engineer Cristina Manas Fernandez is pioneering motorsport

Cristina Mañas Fernández

Motorsport is one of the most popular sports on the planet.

Formula 1 reported an average audience of 87.4 million viewers worldwide per Grand Prix in 2020.

Outside of the top tier of racing, more championships are also increasing in popularity, including Formula E — the world’s first all-electric motorsport.

While viewing figures rise and drivers are thrust into the spotlight, it’s easy to forget how much work is required behind the scenes to bring fans the thrill of each race.

Formula E was conceived in 2011 and now, ten years later, a new documentary has been released to provide insight into the groundbreaking tournament and what goes on outside of the infamous all-electric single-seaters.

Jaguar racing engineer Cristina Mañas Fernández spoke to GiveMeSport Women about the new Formula E: Unplugged series and her role as a woman within the motorsport industry.

Life as a Formula E engineer

Fernández graduated from university with a first class masters degree in automotive engineering. After joining Williams Advanced Engineering in 2017, she moved to the Formula E Jaguar outfit.

“I was initially involved in the driving simulator development,” she explained. “From there, I moved to a more performance-based role, which is where I am at the moment and I’m now trackside with the team full-time.

“It’s kind of hard to say what a normal day looks like for me because it changes a lot, which is one of the beauties of working in motorsport.”

When working in factory-based locations, Fernández and the crew analyse data from the most recent event in order to summarise what was successful and what could be improved heading into the next race.

“We’re in continuous brainstorming about what we can bring to the car and how we can make us faster.”

Growing up with the passion

Fernández grew up in Spain, where the majority of people were avid Formula 1 fans and followed the iconic Fernando Alonso. 

She would watch the Grands Prix with her father, but admitted her fascination with the sport lay beyond the drivers behind the wheels of the cars.

“I was more interested in the people who were working around the car. It was from there that I thought I would really like to be one of those people who understand the car.”

Fernández was interested in science and maths during her years at school and university, which fuelled her passion for engineering.

Making the car move is down to the work of many people, not just one.

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Working as a woman in motorsport

Fernández admitted she feels “quite privileged” to be part of the Jaguar crew, as Formula E teams are relatively small, meaning there’s less opportunities to get involved in engineering roles.

As a male-dominated sport, it’s refreshing to see women working within this industry. Whether it’s those on the track or the people working in the background, every female role is helping squash stereotypes.

“I can only speak for myself, but I must say I’ve never really had the feeling that I was treated differently for being a woman,” Fernández reflected. “We all get together on the track at the same time, we all do the same kind of work.

“Track side, I’m the only woman [on the team]. In the factory we have a few more but it’s nowhere near 50/50.”

Jaguar Formula E

Women like Fernández are quiet trailblazers — promoting gender equality within sport by succeeding in their sectors in the most modest ways.

Driver Mitch Evans was the focal point of Jaguar’s season after finishing fourth, but Fernández and the rest of the engineering team kept the cogs turning and the system well-oiled.

Jaguar finished second in the overall Formula E rankings last season, just four points behind champions Mercedes-EQ.

Mitch Evans Formula E

Formula E: Unplugged

The Formula E: Unplugged series gives viewers an all-access look behind the scenes of the championship. In 15 episodes, fans get to enjoy an insight into what goes on behind the scenes while all cameras are on the drivers.

Fernandez is featured in the series, which she says allows motorsport followers to take a peek at the non-glamorous side of racing. This is something she says is important as it allows each fan to make their own judgement and “have their own view of what the sport means to them.”

“There are a lot of working hours and there’s ups and downs. You’re not always winning — there’s a bit of everything mixed together. Behind all that, we’re all humans running the show, so I think it’s quite interesting to see how every single one of us copes with the situation.”

Formula E has launched its new TV documentary series, Formula E: Unplugged, taking viewers on an action-packed journey through what it takes to make it in a world-class, high-performance motorsport. Visit their YouTube and Facebook pages to watch for free.

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