Aquaplaning is loss of road holding (traction and steering capabilities) caused by tires skimming over the surface of a wet track. When you aquaplane during the race, there is no question of skill. Before your internal gyros register that something is wrong, you are already in trouble.

AquaplaningIt occurs when a tire's tread pattern is unable to disperse sufficient water from the road surface. Levels of traction (and therefore control) decrease as the size of the contact patch decreases. Aquaplaning causes the tire(s) to lose contact with the road, making the vehicle uncontrollable.
Aquaplaning is the effect of a loss of steering control and traction caused by a film of water building between the tire and road surface.

Most drivers will, at some stage, experience this effect to varying degrees. As the tire travels in a forward direction it relies mainly on the tread pattern to "evacuate" water from the road surface to enable a contact with the tires tread pattern. Several factors can affect the resistance of a tire to aquaplaning such as vehicle speed, depth of water, tire pressures and, most importantly, the tread depth of the tires.

In wet weather, the racing tires that have been properly designed and are in good running condition can cut through the water and maintain contact with the road at high speeds. In cases where the wet racing tires are excessively worn (bald tires) or under inflated, or the water is very deep, you may still aquaplane at slower speeds.


Experiment with different driving speed

Water depth: 5mm, new tires
Diving speed 20 km/h 60 km/h 80 km/h 100 km/h
Ground contact surface photo Aquaplaning experiment speed
Tire fully in contact with ground
Tire almost fully in contact with ground
Tire is partially floating up
Almost all tire is floating on water layer


Experiment with different groove depth

Speed: 80 km/h, Water depth: 5mm
Tire Groove depth New - 7.5 mm 3,2 mm 1.6 mm
Ground contact surface photo Experiment with different groove depth
Tire is partially floating up
Much of the tire is floating up
Almost all tire is floating on water layer


At higher speeds, the wedge of water in front of the tires may pass under the tires and the tires will ride on a cushion of water resulting in possible complete loss of traction.

aquaplaning, 3 zones

A) Sinkage zone: water forms a wedge that lifts the tread - no contact
B) Transition zone - partial contact
C) Contact zone - the tread is in contact with the ground

In the F1 racing, there is a specific tire used for a very wet track during heavy rain, intermediate tires are made for wet track or light rain, compared to a dry one with no groves.
Rain tires are very heavily grooved and the angle of these grooves is set to give the best water evacuation and the best wet performance possible at very high speeds. Cuts in their surface can clear 60 litres of water per second at full speed. But even with this ability to clear huge amounts of water, aquaplaning can occur either through sheer voume of torrential rain, or isolated puddles or rivers of water across the track.
Unlike aquaplaning in road cars, problem with an F1 car is that the water can build up both between the tires and track, and if there is really to much water, between the car's underbody and the track. In either case the grip between the tires and track is lost as the car runs on a film of water rather grippy asphalt - and there is no way to regain control once you start aquaplaning.

Tires Bridgestone Potenza
Bridgestone Potenza slick tires for dry track
Bridgestone Potenza Intermediate tires for light rain
Bridgestone Potenza full wet tires

The other risk from aquaplaning in Formula 1 car can happen when the car is literally lifted off the track by the barrier of water between the track and its underbody. Teams want to run plank as close to the ground as possible for aerodynamic reasons, and with such little ground clearance the risk of aquaplaning increases. In the wet conditions teams want to increase ride height even more to lessen the risk of plank aquaplaning. That's what is called "wet setup". This will, of course, come at the expense of downforce generation under the car, but in the wet aerodynamics become far less of a concern.



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Books to read


Some useful links:

- f1technical.net, a great site with a lot of technical information’s and explanations. Site is updated daily with news from F1 word.

 - autosport.com, This site is a legend. A bible for racing lovers. News from all around the word. Unfortunately, to get access to all news, interviews and to open the site completely you should be subscribed to Autosport magazine. Anyway, great read.

James Allen on F1
- JA.F1 site (or blog) ovned by ITV Sport’s lead commentator on Formula 1 James Allen

Joe Saward blog
- joesaward is the Joe Saward official blog about Formula 1 world. Joe is an journalist, who write primarily about politics in and around motorsport, specifically on the FIA Formula 1 World Championship

Vital F1
 - vitalf1.com/ is another great site for Motor Sports fan’s like me. Site is relatively new, but great fun, with great discussion forum, Formula 1 news and forum.

 GP update
- f1.gpupdate.net, Site with fresh news from Formula 1

Planet F1
 - planetf1, another site with many different articles, news and statistics. Biased toward British teams, but anyway good read.

Gurney flap
 - gurneyflap.com, Great history site. You can learn a lot from this site. Pictures, cars and many many more. Great.

4ormula1 is a database of Formula 1 history and statistics of drivers, teams, grand prix, and all results since 1950.

Missed Apex Podcast
Enjoy range of Podcasts and Articles on Motorsport. Every week a Formula one chat on Missed Apex F1 Podcast with F1 journalist Joe Saward and tech Analyst Matthew Somerfield as guests. Also the exciting all electric racing series formula E on eRadio Show and Bike Show Lean Angle Podcast.

Racecar engineering
-Racecar Engineering, an online magazine with a lot to learn from, a lot of technical information’s and explanations

 - fia.com, La Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, representing the interests of motoring organisations and motor car users. Head organisation and ruler in auto sport.

 - wikipedia.org, I don’t believe that I have to tell you anything about this site. It’s not about Formula 1 technology, but you can learn a lot about that too.

Sutton Images

grandprix photo

 - carbibles.com, a great site for normal car users. Here you can find explanations of almost everything about your car and how it works. Technical reviews and explanations of some in-car gadgets.

Dare To Be Different
- Daretobedifferent.org Susie Wolff and UK governing body of UK motorsport have joined forces to launch Dare To Be Different, a high-profile new initiative which is about increasing female participation, not just on the track but in all aspects of the sport.

Giorgio Piola web site