In this video at 0:19, the car on the right drifts too far onto the grass and ends up sliding to the left/anti-clockwise from top view.

My initial instinct before the spin would be that car would spin to the right, after drifting too far right and onto the grass. My reasoning would be that the rear right driving wheels would lose traction and overspin, therefore causing the rear left driving wheel to dominate and turn the car clockwise (just as how a tank turns).

However this is mostly not often the case in all crashes like this: the car spins in the exact opposite direction.

Why is this the case?

  • $\begingroup$ This can depend on where the CM (center of mass) is as well as whether the front or rear wheels lose traction first. $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2021 at 12:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In F1 the center of mass is engineered near the geometric center of the car. The rear (powered) wheels always "lose traction" first, except in extreme braking when the front wheels are the first to slide (just like in the ordinary passenger cars). $\endgroup$
    – fraxinus
    Jul 16, 2021 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe an helpful observation is that apparently at 0:19 the driver is turning the steering wheel to the left $\endgroup$
    – Matteo
    Jul 16, 2021 at 12:29

2 Answers 2


In most cases, when a traction force applied to the rear wheels exceeds the friction, they start sliding sideways (in regard to their intended track).

The rear part of the car tries to follow a straight trajectory outside the intended turning curve.

Front wheels, on the other hand, have enough friction to follow their track (at least some more time, if the driver doesn't counter the process).


Check the video at 00:39 from a different camera angle . It clearly shows that the car DOES NOT drift into grass. All its wheels are still inside the race track, when it loses traction and spins out.
Even in the camera angle at 00:19, if you see carefully you will see that it loses traction BEFORE reaching the grass. Listen to the sound of the engine, the moment when the engine starts to rev higher instantly, is the exact moment when you know it lost traction, this happens just before it reaches the grass.

So, it is not the case that the rear right wheels lose traction because of going on to the grass.

But it is true that the real wheels lost traction, (probably because he took the outside line which was not dry) . When that happens , the car tends to oversteer. Because at that instant the traction on the front wheels is trying to rotate the car counter clockwise, and there is no traction on the rear wheels which would provide a opposite torque in the clockwise direction. So, the car spins counterclockwise.


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