Ranking the top 10 riders of the 2023 MotoGP season

Ranking the top 10 riders of the 2023 MotoGP season

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The 2023 MotoGP season proved to be one of the most competitive campaigns for the series, as the championship battle between Ducati duo Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin raged until the final race of an historic campaign that also saw sprints introduced for the first time.

Bagnaia ultimately won out by 39 points to score his second championship, capping off a banner year for Ducati in which it won a record 17 GPs across six of its eight riders, achieved 43 total podiums and eight rostrum lockouts.

There were standout performances elsewhere, with Aprilia winning twice with Aleix Espargaro and Honda scoring a sole victory in a miserable campaign courtesy of Alex Rins. New winners emerged too, while others put in commendable performances without ever getting to the top step of the podium.

To decide who we consider the 10 best rider of the 2023 MotoGP season, we’ve taken results into account but also results relative to machinery at their disposal. Also included are how they fared in comparison to last year’s top 10 ranking.

A solid season earned Marini a factory Honda deal for 2024

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

A solid season earned Marini a factory Honda deal for 2024

Team: VR46 DucatiBest GP result: 2nd (America)Best sprint result: 2nd (Indonesia)Total podiums: 6Best qualifying: 1st (Indonesia, Qatar)Championship: 8th (201 points)

Marini ended 2023 as one of only two Ducati riders not to win a grand prix, but did firmly mark himself out as more than just Valentino Rossi’s half-brother. A second in Austin was his best Sunday result, but his podiums were too few and far between for a third-year rider on the grid’s best bike.

A two-race injury lay-off due to a collarbone break of his own making, after he slammed into VR46 team-mate Marco Bezzecchi on the opening lap of the Indian GP sprint, certainly stopped him from achieving more in the second half of the season – having felt like he’d made a major step in understanding the bike at the Misano test in September.

He earned his factory Honda deal for 2024 and a solid bunch of results from 2023 will act as a good starting point.

Alex Marquez took two sprint wins in his first season with Gresini

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Alex Marquez took two sprint wins in his first season with Gresini

Team: Gresini DucatiBest GP result: 2nd (Malaysia)Best sprint result: 1st (Britain, Malaysia)Total podiums: 4Best qualifying: 1st (Argentina)Championship: 9th (177 points)

After a solid maiden campaign with the factory Honda squad in 2020, in which he scored HRC’s only podiums that year, the following two years with LCR proved to be a bit of a slog for the 2019 Moto2 world champion.

Seizing the opportunity of competitive machinery at Gresini with a 2022-spec Ducati, 27-year-old Marquez was a consistent top 10 finisher on Sundays with a brace of podiums.

Insight: How one Marquez’s Ducati switch inspired another

In the sprints, he managed two victories, proving he has race-winning potential on the Ducati. Given his overall MotoGP experience relative to those around him in the Ducati stable, Marquez’s lack of grand prix victory is disappointing.

But with a year of experience on the bike under his belt, and clear signs of promise shown in 2023, Marquez should be able to take that final step to getting to the top of the podium – though, with his brother Marc on equal machinery in 2024, that task has gotten a lot harder.

Di Giannantonio became MotoGP's newest winner in Qatar

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Di Giannantonio became MotoGP’s newest winner in Qatar

Team: Gresini DucatiBest GP result: 1st (Qatar)Best sprint result: 2nd (Qatar)Total podiums: 3Best qualifying: 2nd (Qatar)Championship: 12th (151 points)

Scoring just 53 points in the first 14 rounds of the 2023 season, Di Giannantonio’s turnaround in form from Japan to the end of the season to score 108 points vaulted him upwards in many people’s estimations and ultimately saved his MotoGP career.

Having not cracked the top six in a grand prix at all in MotoGP since his debut in 2022, Di Giannantonio was fourth in Indonesia before finishing third in Australia. In Qatar, everything came together for him to score his first victory. He did finish second in Valencia, but a tyre pressure penalty post-race dropped him to fourth.

The turnaround in form looked sudden, but was the combination of hard work all year with crew chief Frankie Carchedi to get the Ducati set up to Di Giannantonio’s liking. According to the crew chief, in those last seven rounds, they barely touched his bike having made the key breakthrough.

Though somewhat fortunate that the situation with Marc Marquez (which forced him out of Gresini) led to the VR46 opportunity for 2024 emerging, Di Giannantonio’s end to 2023 proved he deserved another year. But it will be vital that he carries this momentum into the start of 2024 and maintain it throughout.

Zarco finally broke his win duck after 120 times of trying

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Zarco finally broke his win duck after 120 times of trying

Team: Pramac DucatiBest GP result: 1st (Australia)Best sprint result: 4th (Italy, Britain)Total podiums: 6Best qualifying: 2nd (Valencia)Championship: 5th (225 points)

Johann Zarco’s agonising wait for a maiden MotoGP win finally came to an end in 2023, when he took to the top step of the podium in a dramatic Australian Grand Prix.

It was unquestionably the highlight of a mixed season for the Pramac Ducati rider. A consistent first half of the year, with four podiums inside seven rounds, was solid enough for Honda to offer him a two-year contract to join LCR in 2024.

A lacklustre second half stunted his hopes of beating Binder to fourth in the standings and kept him from sitting higher on our top 10 list: riding the factory Ducati he had, an absolute minimum requirement must be weekly podiums.

While his strengths lay in the way he looked after his tyres and could rally in the second half of races – which contributed hugely to his Australia victory – the missing explosiveness in the early laps was highlighted by his lack of sprint podiums (the only rider in this list not to have taken a half-distance race podium).

6. Aleix Espargaro (Down 1)

Espargaro doubled his win tally from 2022, but consistent strong results were fewer

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Espargaro doubled his win tally from 2022, but consistent strong results were fewer

Team: ApriliaBest GP result: 1st (Britain, Catalunya)Best sprint result: 1st (Catalunya)Total podiums: 4Best qualifying: 1st (Spain)Championship: 6th (206 points)

Having fought for the championship in a 2022 season of solid consistency that yielded a maiden grand prix victory, a lot was expected of Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia in 2023.

But things never really got going for the Spaniard. It would take until the Dutch GP for him to get his first podium of the year, which was a gifted third in the Sunday race due to a track limits penalty for Brad Binder.

When the paddock reconvened at Silverstone after the summer break, he brilliantly beat Francesco Bagnaia on the last lap of the British GP to score victory and led a first ever Aprilia 1-2 at the Catalan GP a few weeks later.

That would be the last podium for Espargaro, who took advantage of the Aprilia’s agility and strong traction at Silverstone and Catalunya to maximum effect. The RS-GP’s sluggish starts in the first part of the season, then mechanical issues and injury later on in the second half conspired against Espargaro.

He maintained his 100% record of outscoring every Aprilia team-mate since joining the marque in 2017, but only by two points. Going into the winter now thinking 2024 may not be his last season in MotoGP, the 34-year-old needs to match his 2022 consistency to overall performance gains he made in 2023.

5. Marco Bezzecchi (Up 4)

Bezzecchi won three grands prix on his way to third in the standings

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bezzecchi won three grands prix on his way to third in the standings

Team: VR46 DucatiBest GP result: 1st (Argentina, France, India)Best sprint result: 1st (Netherlands)Total podiums: 13Best qualifying: 1st (Netherlands, Britain, India)Championship: 3rd (329 points)

The 2023 season was a breakout year for Bezzecchi in his sophomore season in the premier class. Having already stunned with flashes of speed in his maiden campaign in 2022, the Italian took a major stride by scoring three grand prix victories, all of them devastatingly delivered.

In the wet of Argentina, he was 4.085s clear of second; in France, he was 4.256s up the road; and in India, he was 8.649s ahead of the rest.

When Bezzecchi was good, he was absolutely brilliant. And that’s what kept him in title contention, albeit as an outsider, until the third-from-last round of the season.

His Saturday form was solid, qualifying outside of the top 12 only once, while five sprint rostrums – including a win at Assen – ensured a steady stream of points. But consistency wasn’t always on Bezzecchi’s side, with great weekends generally followed up by average ones. Several injury problems, including a broken collarbone during training ahead of the Indonesian GP, didn’t help his cause.

On year-old Ducati machinery, Bezzecchi showed he was genuinely frontrunning class in MotoGP. Electing to stay with the VR46 team on a year-old for 2024 should allow him to improve the consistency that eluded him at times last season.

Quartararo suffered his first winless season since 2019, but consistently outperformed his machinery in 2023

Photo by: Dorna

Quartararo suffered his first winless season since 2019, but consistently outperformed his machinery in 2023

Team: YamahaBest GP result: 3rd (America, India, Indonesia)Best sprint result: 3rd (Netherlands)Total podiums: 4Best qualifying: 4th (Netherlands, Indonesia)Championship: 10th (172 points)

From the lofty heights of the world championship in 2021, to narrowly missing out last year on inferior machinery, 2023 marked a low point in Fabio Quartararo’s career in MotoGP.

The Yamaha’s lack of speed and loss of performance through the corners, as it appeared to make little in the way of gains relative to its rivals, meant neither Quartararo nor team-mate Franco Morbidelli could get to the top step of the podium in 2023.

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Marking Yamaha’s first winless season in MotoGP in 20 years, Quartararo was understandably frustrated in the first part of the year – “arrogant” was the word he would later use. One grand prix podium in America and a fortunate sprint third at Assen (courtesy of Binder’s track limits penalty) was all Quartararo could muster in the first half of the year.

A shift to accepting his situation and simply pushing the Yamaha for all it was worth delivered him two more grand prix podiums at friendlier venues in India and Indonesia for the M1.

Ending the year 70 points clear of Morbidelli, on the only other Yamaha on the grid, Quartararo proved himself invaluable to a Japanese marque that is at risk of losing him in 2025 if it doesn’t utilise the concessions it will have at its disposal in 2024 to build him a race-winning package again.

3. Brad Binder (Up 4)

Binder didn't get the grand prix win he wanted, but was class of the KTM crop in 2023

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Binder didn’t get the grand prix win he wanted, but was class of the KTM crop in 2023

Team: KTMBest GP result: 2nd (Spain, Austria)Best sprint result: 1st (Argentina, Spain)Total podiums: 12Best qualifying: 2nd (Australia)Championship: 4th (293 points)

Binder’s wait for a third grand prix victory goes on into 2024, but he did come agonisingly close on a few of occasions in 2023 as KTM made gains – but not enough to get on terms with Ducati.

The South African is to KTM what Marc Marquez is to Honda and Fabio Quartararo to Yamaha – a cut above the rest of a good stable, wringing the absolute maximum out of his package every weekend. Testament to that is he ended 2023 some 130 points clear of the next-best KTM rider, Jack Miller.

Binder proved a match for Francesco Bagnaia in the Spanish GP, missing out by just 0.221s in second. In Thailand he came within 0.114s of beating race winner Jorge Martin, only to be demoted to third for a track limits violation on the final lap. And in the Valencia finale he looked in good shape to end a grand prix win drought dating back to Austria 2021 before a late error dropped him to fourth (which would be transformed into third in the stewards room, following a penalty for Di Giannantonio in second). A brace of podiums at Assen went walking thanks to track limits penalties.

Binder did come away with a brace of sprint wins: brilliantly from 15th on the grid in Argentina, where he vaulted to the lead on lap three, and then in Spain while fending off Bagnaia. Consistent top-six form all year helped him to his best championship result of fourth.

The RC16 made its biggest step in its seven seasons in MotoGP in 2023, while a late-season switch to its new carbon fibre chassis helped improve some key weak areas. If it can continue its upward trend, Binder again proved he is more than capable of being a weekly threat when the bike is willing.

2. Jorge Martin (Re-entry)

Martin fought hard for the title, but crucial errors denied him at the end

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Martin fought hard for the title, but crucial errors denied him at the end

Team: Pramac DucatiBest GP result: 1st (Germany, San Marino, Japan, Thailand)Best sprint result: 1st (France, Germany, San Marino, India, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Qatar, Valencia)Total podiums: 22Best qualifying: 1st (San Marino, Japan, Indonesia, Australia)Championship: 2nd (428)

After the first few rounds of 2023, Jorge Martin was threatening to become something of a nearly-man in MotoGP. His superb rookie year in 2021 proved hard to build on in 2022 due to the Ducati engine he had to race being much more aggressive than it had been previously.

While he felt much more at ease on the 2023 Ducati and took sprint podiums in Portugal and Austin, he had to wait until the French GP sprint for a win before finishing the Sunday race second. It wouldn’t be until the German GP that he took to the top step of the podium on a Sunday again.

Here offered a glimpse of the rivalry that would follow, having beaten Bagnaia in a head-to-head duel. Three lacklustre GPs at Assen, Silverstone and Red Bull Ring followed, leaving him 66 points behind Bagnaia after the Barcelona sprint.

But when Bagnaia had his incident, Martin stepped up a gear. Third in the Catalan GP gave way to a double at Misano to put him firmly into title contention. He ended the year with nine sprint wins – the undisputed king of Saturday – and four GP victories, keeping the title fight going to the wire, as he emerged without question as the fastest rider in the second part of the season.

However, two critical errors in Indonesia – when he crashed out of the lead of the GP having taken a seven-point lead in the standings after the sprint – and sliding to fifth in Australia due to a tyre choice backfiring tripped him up. The Qatar tyre fault was unfortunate, but it could have been softened by Indonesia and Australia working out better.

His tangle with Marc Marquez in the Valencia GP, having run off chasing Bagnaia when he got sucked into his slipstream, ended his hopes of claiming the crown. But in reality, it was critical errors at crucial moments that really derailed him.

This is all part of the learning process, though. Tidying this up in 2024 and allying it to the raw speed he clearly has will make him an even tougher opponent for Bagnaia.

1. Francesco Bagnaia (No change)

Still made too many mistakes, but his best was better than ever in 2023

Photo by: MotoGP

Still made too many mistakes, but his best was better than ever in 2023

Team: DucatiBest GP result: 1st (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Indonesia, Valencia)Best sprint result: 1st (Portugal, America, Italy, Austria)Total podiums: 28Best qualifying: 1st (America, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Malaysia, Valencia)Championship: 1st (467 points)

Francesco Bagnaia’s first championship-winning season saw him commit too many mistakes in the first half of the year. And while his fightback from being 91 points adrift of Quartararo was heroic, it was helped in no small part by the Yamaha being a much weaker motorcycle than the Ducati.

In 2023, he couldn’t do the same thing if he hoped to win the title again, not least because his main threat was likely to come from within the Ducati stable.

A perfect start in Portugal gave way to crashes while running second in Argentina and leading in America – the latter he blamed at the time on the GP23 being too stable. A third non-score came at the hands of Maverick Vinales in France, while in India later in the season he slid out of the podium places of his own accord.

Perhaps making too many errors for a world champion, when he rebounded, he did so emphatically. Seven GP wins across the season, including three sprint/GP doubles, kept him in play even when his Saturday form went from strongest of the field in the first half of the year to causing him issues in the second.

Some of that could be attributed to the leg injury he suffered in his horrifying incident in Barcelona, where he had his leg run over by Binder. But even after he’d recovered, his Saturday form still lacked compared to title rival Martin as – at times – his strong front-end feeling disappeared.

However, it was this ability to turn things around and the way he managed the championship finale – qualifying second (and then being promoted to pole due to a penalty for Vinales), ensuring he did enough when he struggled in the sprint to fifth, and winning the GP as Martin imploded – that spotlighted his champion’s credentials.

Hopes of a third title in 2024 will rest on him once more matching up his strong Sunday form to the Saturday pace he had in the first half of the season and sustaining it throughout.

Bagnaia delivered Ducati's second title on the trot in a campaign that was in many ways a reverse of 2022

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bagnaia delivered Ducati’s second title on the trot in a campaign that was in many ways a reverse of 2022

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