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Top 200 Drivers of 2022 (Part I)

by Sean Wrona

Last year, I undertook an ambitious attempt to rank the top 200 drivers of 2021 in global motorsports. I attempted to include drivers from every single discipline of car racing (including some drivers like drag racers, rally racers, and sprint car drivers that others might not consider for these lists), but I exclude motorcycle racers because they are riders, not drivers. Drivers are ranked solely based on their performance in 2022 racing events and I try not to overrate/underrate drivers by anything they did in previous years (as opposed to so many other lists that tend to overrate drivers who were once great but have fallen from their peaks.) However, as I said in last year's list, I will use context from previous seasons when necessary to analyze the current season performance.

As you may recall from last year's list, for each year's rankings I divide drivers into two broad tiers (E for Elite and C for Competitive) and then subdivide those drivers into five more finite tiers (E, E-, C+, C, and C-.) The top 25 drivers are placed in the E class, reflecting that in my opinion they were the best drivers in the world that year. E- drivers (26th to 50th) are drivers who had straight up great seasons but were somehow lacking in some facet (usually either they weren't dominant enough, weren't consistent enough, or faced too shallow a field of competitors.) C+ drivers (51st to 100th) would equate to the very good tier - drivers who fell just short of greatness in some regard. C drivers (101st to 150th) had run of the mill good seasons, usually with a mix of good and bad elements. Finally, C- drivers (151st to 200th) are drivers I consider to have had some kind of barely noteworthy distinction but still deserve some measure of praise. In short, this would translate as E: elite, E-: great, C+: very good, C: good, C-: barely good. Once you get outside the top one hundred, it becomes incredibly hard to make distinctions and I have an even longer list of over 100 more drivers who would have been roughly as deserving as many of the drivers I placed in the C- tier, but you have to draw the line somewhere. I think 200 drivers is a good way of ensuring that the good drivers in every discipline of motorsport were represented while also not setting the bar too low.

The ultimate goal of this research is for me to rank the top 1,000 drivers in motorsports history. For each season, I award 100 points to the highest-rated driver, 70 to the 2nd-place driver, 50 for 3rd, 30 for 4th, 20 for 5th, 10 for the remaining E drivers, 5 for the E- drivers, 3 for the C+ drivers, 2 for the C drivers, and 1 for the C- drivers. The 1,000 drivers who have the most cumulative points over their entire careers will qualify for my overall list, and then I will re-rank them using a different series of criteria at that point.

Over the past few months, I have been compiling an index of basically every driver who ever achieved any significant accomplishment in auto racing. This includes winners and top ten points finishers for essentially all the major league auto racing series (there are very few major league series I do not have included in this master file) as well as winners and top five points finishers for most of the important minor league series as well. This list was a master undertaking: it is a raw text file that is already over 2 megabytes and it contains around 11,000 drivers already. I am pretty confident I am not missing any drivers here who will eventually make my top 1,000 drivers list, and this index file will allow me to quickly rate all of every driver's individual season ratings at a much faster clip. I will probably not go into such an elaborate amount of detail when evaluating non-current seasons, and I don't plan on ranking any of the drivers outside of the top five for seasons prior to 2021; for the other 195 drivers, I will simply be placing them in tier groups for those years. Additionally, I realize there was substantially less auto racing around prior to World War II, so in the pre-war years, I will likely either make each of the tier groups smaller or evaluate the drivers of those years over two or three year periods instead.

I evaluate drivers based on the level of impact I believe they had while adjusting for the strength of equipment as much as I can. For that, I tend to use either my open wheel or stock car models or speed percentiles and especially speed differentials between teammates. Although the last versions of my open wheel and stock car teammate models were published in September, I have updated my models through the end of the season and have simply not yet published the results. I did include some open wheel drivers who have not yet made a major league open wheel start but are expected to (Oscar Piastri, Liam Lawson, Logan Sargeant, Benjamin Pedersen, and so on.)

For pretty much all major series, including Formula One, NASCAR Cup, IndyCar, Formula E, Super Formula, Supercars, WTCR, BTCC, DTM, WEC, and IMSA, I have calculated natural races led, lead change records, TNL, lead shares, cumulative races led, races each driver led the most laps, poles, fastest laps, fastest races (races with the highest average speed), and speed percentiles and driver ratings where available. I was able to find lap times for all these series except Super Formula, and there were several other series that had lap times available as well, but I decided at that point that this would take too much time and I probably wouldn't even have completed my list before the start of the next season if I did that. It was particularly exciting to me when I discovered that NASCAR and DTM finally made lap times of past races available, because those were extremely difficult to find in past seasons. For each driver in each series, I calculated race speeds by including all lap times within 10% of each driver's fastest lap, but I threw out all drivers who did not have five or more laps within 10% of their fastest lap within a given race, and I threw out one unrepresentative Ross Chastain lap for obvious reasons.

As I just said, drivers are ranked by level of impact, not the raw statlines. In a year where it seems like the best driver did not win the championship in the vast majority of major league series this year, that's important to note. Too many lists automatically rank the champions or the drivers who won the most races highest when it isn't guaranteed that the best driver will win the championship, and in my opinion that did not happen in Cup, IndyCar, Formula E, and most WEC and IMSA classes this year. People don't often talk enough about the fact that as in basically any major league sport, championships are won by teams and the driver is merely only one component. In other professional sports, this is acknowledged as sometimes teams that are not capable of winning championships have the best players on them, but because the listed champions for auto racing series are usually drivers, people think that is somehow different for racing. The most obvious example of this is equipment differences, which I try to account for, but additionally mechanical reliability, pit strategy, and the quality of a team's other co-drivers (particularly in sports car racing) play a role as well, and those are areas where the driver rarely has input. Two areas where the driver does have almost total impact are speed and passing, so those are things I rate more highly than a lot of analysts.

One of the flaws in my earlier analyses is that I put too much emphasis on passing for the lead and not enough on passing throughout the field, so to try to remedy that, I'm going to try to look at things like the NASCAR loop data and the kind of analyses undertaken by people like Ryan McCafferty at RJMAnalytics, which take into account passing throughout the entire field, because obviously there are tons of impressive drives that passing for the lead won't take into account. For instance, Ken Schrader won the pole for the 1990 Daytona 500, crashed in his qualifying race, and then drove up to 2nd before blowing an engine. Ryan would rate something like that higher than I would and I want to take these sorts of things into account more than I otherwise would have. I was also excited a few weeks ago when I discovered there is some guy on Reddit who has made a spreadsheet of every overtake in F1 history back to 1986, and that definitely came in handy when I was evaluating F1 teammates against each other for this list.

When evaluating drivers I consider dominance, consistency, passing, clutch performance, speed, and versatility. Some of these attributes I rate more highly than others, but all are considered. However, as a general rule, when deciding between a driver who was consistent while lacking in dominance and a driver who was dominant while lacking in consistency, I prefer the latter. Dominance is something that is more repeatable and based on skill, while consistency is something that is often reliant on luck. F1metrics already proved that drivers do not really have an effect on the reliability of their cars (with the possible exception of Alain Prost), so I also follow that philosophy. I will dock drivers to some degree if they wreck frequently when it is their fault, but I generally don't dock drivers when they crash after having an equipment failure (as for instance Josef Newgarden did in the second Iowa race.)

One change from last year is that I have decided to significantly downgrade drivers from minor league series and include substantially fewer of them. Last year, I even had some drivers at the NASCAR Truck, Formula 3, and Formula 4 levels and the aforementioned Ryan McCafferty told me that was wrong and I thought more about it and agreed with him. As a result, I generally placed minor league drivers on the list lower than I would have last year even if they had equivalent accomplishments, so don't think that because I rated Ty Gibbs and David Malukas in lower tiers this year than I did last year that I actually think they were worse; no, I clearly overrated them last time and will need to eventually make some tweaks to last year's list as a result. Most drivers at the minor league level just haven't developed to the level of professional drivers yet. Cole Custer and Kyle Kirkwood for example had awful stats this year but presumably if they had been in Xfinity or Indy Lights, they would have won the title easily (and now that Custer is going back to Xfinity, he probably will win the title.) While I do think their minor league seasons were better than what they did in 2022 (although in the cases of those two drivers in particular, they ran a lot better than their finishing records made them look), in general minor league drivers are worse and one of the flaws of my previous list and an even worse flaw on other people's lists is placing dominant minor league drivers over more mediocre major league drivers (who were still superior.) I included minor league drivers sparingly this time.

In all, 125 drivers from last year's top 200 list returned while the other 75 were dropped. Six drivers from the elite tier (top 50) were dropped this time. Felipe Nasr ranked 13th last year after his dominant IMSA DPi season, but this year he averaged a speed percentile below 30% in the GTD Pro category and I didn't think his class win in the 24 Hours of Daytona was enough to compensate for that. Sam Bird ranked 30th last year after winning two races in Formula E while his teammate Mitch Evans went winless; this year, Evans won four times and finished 2nd in points while Bird finished a miserable 13th and had his first winless season after seven consecutive winning seasons. Jean-Karl Vernay ranked 36th last year after a solid World Touring Car season but switched to electric touring cars and only finished 8th in points in a fairly shallow series this year. Liam Lawson ranked 43rd after a dominant DTM season, but this year he didn't compete in DTM and only competed in Formula 2, where he basically matched his rookie teammate Logan Sargeant while he was in his second year. Oscar Piastri ranked 48th last year after his Formula 2 championship (which probably overrated him), but fell off simply because he was only an F1 reserve driver and didn't compete: that's basically a technicality. Finally, NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence fell off the list from 50th as he dropped from 11 wins in 2021 to only two in 2022. Five new drivers who were not on last year's list join this year's elite tier, with one driver going from off the list to the top 25 and four others joining the top fifty, but I won't spoil those just yet. My last cuts were Declan Fraser, the Supercars development driver who won the Super2 championship and pretty much matched what Broc Feeney did last year, and Oliver Rowland, who I was going to list for placing fairly highly in my teammate ratings for Formula E, but I eventually changed my mind.

C- drivers (200th-151st)

Jorge Barrio: One of my major oversights last year was neglecting the auto racing scene in Argentina. That country has three major league racing series: TC2000, Top Race, and Turismo Carretera, that largely feature the same drivers and these series are more prestigious than you think as José María López actually faced more intense competition there than he did in the years when he dominated in WTCC and WEC competition internationally; another major Argentine champion Matías Rossi crossed over to finish fourth in Stock Car Brasil as a rookie this year, another series that is more competitive than you think as legends like Tony Kanaan and Felipe Massa didn't even finish in the top twenty in the championship in a year that Kanaan was finishing 3rd in the Indy 500. People in the Anglophone world don't know much about racing in Argentina (especially because so much of the information on it is only available in Spanish), but having done my research on this now, I think this is probably the most underrated racing scene in the world and deserves more representation. I chose Barrio because he was one of the few drivers to cross over and win in two of the three major series, scoring two wins in TC2000, four wins in Top Race, and placing 5th in both championships.

Alex Bowman: Last year, he was a borderline selection who I just barely failed to include in my top 100; this year, he's barely a borderline selection for the 200 and I could have easily left him out. He did not do well in a lot of advanced metrics this year (for instance, all three of his Hendrick teammates ranked in the top four in speed while he ranked only 13th), but there are several reasons I still decided to include him. His duel for the win against Kyle Larson at Las Vegas was very impressive as were his races at COTA, Dover, and Kansas. Additionally, while he led less often than any of his teammates, he had the best lead change percentage of all the Hendrick drivers and ranked 12th in my teammate model, easily better than similar drivers I could have listed instead like Brad Keselowski or Michael McDowell. I also decided to cut him a break because of his injury.

Colin Braun: He won the IMSA LMP3 championship alongside his perennial co-driver, late-50s businessman Jon Bennett. In addition to winning twice at Mid-Ohio and Mosport, he also had the greatest speed percentile of any full-time IMSA driver this year as he was faster than 93.07% of drivers in the LMP3 class on average. However, it goes without saying that this class was unquestionably the shallowest of any of the five IMSA classes this year, which is the main reason I decided to temper my praise.

Chase Briscoe: Even though he fought for the lead and fought for wins far more often than any of his Stewart-Haas teammates, he was also the most mistake-prone Cup playoff driver this year and had far more invisible weeks than Kevin Harvick did. He easily could have won more than once, but if he had, it wouldn't have done anything for his consistency in either performance or results. And it was galling that he ended up being the last driver to advance over Tyler Reddick in the first round and over Kyle Larson in the second round after taking both of them out of wins at Bristol and Charlotte respectively that would have ensured them enough points to stay ahead of the cut line.

Chris Buescher: After my stock car model laughably rated him as the best Cup driver of 2021 because he utterly dominated a washed-up Ryan Newman, I decided to place him in the C- tier of last year's list in recognition of that fact. That aged nicely, didn't it? Vindication for my model! Because he was not far behind his new teammate Brad Keselowski in my teammate model entering 2022, I predicted that he would be not far behind Keselowski, even though many were skeptical. As it turned out, even I was continuing to underestimate him as he was slightly faster than Keselowski for pretty much the entire year, although to be fair, it was certainly far closer than the results made it look. Buescher ranked in the top ten of my stock car teammate model for the fourth consecutive year in 2022 (this year he was 7th), and while last year's entry may have been dubious, this one is not. Having said that, he still has many flaws as he is too conservative a driver and not a great passer (Keselowski still has him beat there, and it's telling that Keselowski did make a pass for the lead at Bristol while Buescher only won in the pits.)

Rory Butcher: The British Touring Car Championship veteran had a fairly generic season but did seem to outperform the level of his equipment finishing 5th in points despite ranking 7th in speed. He also scored almost four times the points of his teammate Ricky Collard, who finished 16th in the championship in his first full-time season. I figured that was enough to justify listing him, but only barely as although he did win one race at Silverstone, he never made an on-track pass for the lead in the entire 2022 season. Still, it was more than Dan Cammish, Adam Morgan, and Dan Lloyd did (three other BTCC drivers I considered before ultimately rejecting for this list.) Some person who knows more than me agreed. I dropped him considerably from the C+ tier last year, but I think it's more that I overrated him then than that I'm underrating him now.

Matteo Cairoli: One of the most frustrating things about compiling a list like this is the vast number of similarly-placed sports car drivers I could select for these lowest positions, and I frequently cycle through a bunch of them before making my final decisions. Cairoli won the season finale in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup at Barcelona and also won the LMGTE Am class at the WEC season finale in Bahrain. He was also the 4th fastest of 39 regular drivers in his WEC class, but what really impressed me was that he was the only driver who made two on-track passes for the lead in the LMGTE Am class without being passed for the lead. Only one other WEC driver in any class managed to do this, and he's considerably higher up the list.

Sérgio Sette Câmara: As if to prove that not every Formula One driver is one of the best drivers in the world, Antonio Giovinazzi switched to Formula E after bombing out of F1 and had a shockingly terrible season. While he and his teammate Câmara did have the slowest cars, I still expected more from Giovinazzi than him being ranked last in the FE points for almost the entire season, which along with Nyck de Vries's impressive F1 crossover raised my esteem for FE drivers in general. Although Câmara never got the opportunity to compete in F1, he nonetheless trounced Giovinazzi 6-1 in races both of them started, and that was even though Giovinazzi was selected to receive the FanBoost in a bunch of races solely due to his F1 fame. Since Giovinazzi is still absurdly overrated in my model, this performance was enough for Câmara to rank second overall in my open wheel teammate model and highest of all FE drivers. He certainly isn't that good, but I think the season certainly deserves recognition even though his cars were so lousy that even he scored only two points.

Hélio Castroneves: His full-time return to IndyCar went pretty much how I expected, and despite winning the Indy 500 in 2021, he and Meyer Shank teammate Simon Pagenaud both had tremendously disappointing seasons and certainly weren't worthy of being on this list for 2022 based on their IndyCar performances. However, what complicates things is that both drivers were also part of Michael Shank's winning 24 Hours of Daytona team. I didn't want to waste a spot on both of them, so I chose Castroneves over Pagenaud because he was actually the fastest driver on the winning Rolex team and made a couple passes for the overall lead in that race while Pagenaud did not. Additionally, he was also a part of the winning Petit Le Mans team while Pagenaud was not. Furthermore, while team leader Tom Blomqvist was considerably faster than him overall, Castroneves was faster than Blomqvist's co-driver Oliver Jarvis in both races so I decided I would rather list Castroneves than Jarvis, especially because those two wins were the Blomqvist/Jarvis team's only wins in 2022.

Nicky Catsburg: In the many series he competed in, he only scored one major win in the GTD Pro class at the 12 Hours of Sebring. However, he was definitely the linchpin of his team as despite only being a part-time driver for Corvette Racing, he posted a faster average speed than both of the team's regular drivers Antonio García and Jordan Taylor in a rare off year for them; they went winless without him. He also made three of the only four passes for the lead in class at Sebring and he was faster than García and Taylor at Le Mans too.

Katsumasa Chiyo: He and co-driver Mitsunori Takaboshi were the only drivers to win multiple races in Japan's Super GT sports car championship this year and from my understanding Chiyo is generally regarded as the team leader, but they narrowly lost out on the championship to Bertrand Baguette and Kazuki Hiramine after Chiyo was penalized for spinning Super Formula champion Tomoki Nojiri on the first lap of the season-ending race at Motegi. Chiyo had entered as the points leader and got overtaken for the championship in the final race, which is the main reason I have placed him here and Baguette in the C tier.

Jonathan Davenport: Like Brandon Overton last year, he's another driver I had never heard of until some Reddit comment mentioned that he deserved consideration for this sort of list. The greatest dirt late model driver of the year, he won a combined 24 races and over $2,000,000. His primary series was the XR Super Series, where he won the championship and five race victories. He also won nine races in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, a championship he had won three times before, winning the most races in that series even though he only started about half the races.

Yann Ehrlacher: The driver who I ranked 19th last year after he won his second World Touring Car Cup in a row failed to win a race in WTCR this year before his Cyan Racing team shockingly shut down in the middle of the season, but considering the instability of his team, I'm still impressed that Ehrlacher managed to post the highest speed percentile in the series for 2022.

Mario Farnbacher: With co-driver Ashton Harrison, he won the Pro-Am championship in the GT World Challenge America, and the competition in that class was deeper than you might expect since Jan Heylen, Bill Auberlen, the aforementioned Colin Braun, Ryan Dalziel, and Bryan Sellers also competed in that division. He also won the GTD class at the Petit Le Mans where he was substantially faster than his teammates; he was the TNL in that race having passed Jordan Pepper (who finished 2nd in the Pro class of the GT World Challenge America) for the win.

Broc Feeney: Although the defending Super2 champion and Supercars rookie did score his first win this year in the season finale at Adelaide, that's not necessarily saying a lot since his teammate Shane van Gisbergen won 21 of the other 33 races. Having said that, even though he only finished 6th in the championship, you could also easily make the case that Feeney was closer to 2nd place than van Gisbergen was. He certainly was better than most motorsports rookies were this year, but that's definitely easier when you drive for the championship team.

Ty Gibbs: As I said, even though I ranked him in the C tier last year and the C- tier this year, I definitely think he improved. I just overrated him last year. Gibbs won the NASCAR Xfinity championship with seven wins even though it seemed for most of the season that he had something of a deficit in speed to the JR Motorsports cars. However, he didn't make many friends along the way, particularly at Martinsville where he brawled with Sam Mayer after the spring race and intentionally wrecked his teammate Brandon Jones out of the win in the fall race. After rapidly becoming one of the most hated men in NASCAR, a lot of fans no doubt felt really bad after his father Coy died the night after he won the championship. I considered him putting him in the C tier, but his NASCAR Cup appearances filling in for the injured Kurt Busch were too mediocre to justify that.

Franco Girolami: The younger brother of WTCR star Néstor, he won the TCR Europe Touring Car championship by a large margin over the veteran Tom Coronel, but while this series is highly regarded by touring car fans, I consider the TCR Europe Series to be a minor league and feeder for WTCR, which itself has become a lot less prestigious over the years. Franco did make some WTCR starts this year as well, where he wasn't very distinguished and only ranked average in speed, but he was admittedly faster than his brother who finished second in the championship. Regardless, I definitely don't agree with TouringCarTimes, which ranked him 10th among all touring car drivers worldwide and somehow didn't think Josh Cook belonged in the top 30.

Noah Gragson: Ty Gibbs's archrival and an equally abrasive figure, he dominated the NASCAR Xfinity Series for much of the season, particularly in the second half when he became the first non-Cup driver to win four races in a row since Sam Ard in 1983. He was also more competitive in his Cup races than Gibbs was, but that makes sense because he is considerably older and more experienced. He propelled himself to replace Ty Dillon at Petty GMS Motorsports but like Gibbs, didn't make a lot of friends along the way in so doing. He ended up with significant egg on his face after he taunted Gibbs constantly in the week leading up to the championship at Phoenix before losing to him, but his season remains quite solid and he certainly outperformed his older teammates Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry.

Timmy Hansen: Even though he finished second in the World Rallycross Championship, that field has gotten shallower and shallower and in 2022 the series only had eight cars in it. Admittedly the series's greatest driver Johan Kristoffersson has remained there even through the shallower years, but considering Hansen only lost the championship to Kristoffersson in a tiebreaker last year, it was a disappointment for him to only win once when Kristofferson won eight of the other ten races this year. He also did significantly worse in Extreme E, dropping from 3rd to 9th in the championship and failing to win after winning in 2021. I almost didn't list him.

Jan Heylen: For a while when I was trying to decide which drivers deserved my final spots, I couldn't decide between Heylen and Mario Farnbacher, who had very similar seasons. Heylen and his co-driver Charlie Luck only narrowly lost the GT World Challenge America Pro-Am championship to Farnbacher and Ashton Harrison and both teams won four races. However, Heylen even managed to win a race overall despite driving for a Pro-Am class that normally doesn't score overall wins, while Farnbacher did not. Both drivers also claimed IMSA GTD wins in prestigious events with Heylen winning the 24 Hours of Daytona, where he was the fastest driver on the winning team and Farnbacher winning the Petit Le Mans likewise (although Farnbacher was the TNL in his race and Heylen was not.) They seemed very evenly matched and I couldn't decide. Then I realized I had miscounted the number of slots I had remaining and discovered that I had room for both.

Ayumu Iwasa: He finished 5th in the Formula 2 championship and 2nd only narrowly behind Logan Sargeant among rookies. However, both drivers finished behind Théo Pourchaire and Liam Lawson in the championship who are both younger and as a result, my guess is Iwasa is far more likely to end up in Super Formula than in F1, although I do think he would probably be a Super Formula championship contender eventually.

Takamoto Katsuta: He was extremely consistent in the World Rally Championship in 2022 en route to a 5th place finish in the championship and only narrowly finished behind his teammate Elfyn Evans, who had finished second in points the previous two years, but I think that is more because Evans was disappointing than because Katsuta was impressive. Evans was likely expected to win the championship, especially after Sébastien Ogier, the dominant rally racer of the last decade who had beaten him for the championship the last two years, dropped back to only part-time competition. However, Evans and Katsuta's rookie teammate for Toyota, Kalle Rovanperä, ended up overtaking both of them by a massive margin, scoring almost as many points (255) as Evans and Katsuta did combined (256). I have thus downgraded Evans and Katsuta accordingly.

Norbert Kiss: Last year he won eleven races en route to winning the European Truck Racing Championship. This year he won sixteen. Maybe I should have placed him higher, but I think this series is really, really niche. It's rarely a good sign when evaluating a series if most of its drivers don't have Wikipedia pages.

Brodie Kostecki: Last year when both teammates Will Brown and Kostecki were rookies for Erebus Motorsport in Supercars, I placed Brown in the top 100 and left Kostecki off the list entirely even though they were very close in the championship. I suspect both of those were mistakes in retrospect. This time, neither driver won but Kostecki easily had the measure of Brown, finishing 7th to Brown's 14th in the championship, although he only beat him 17-13 in shared finishes so they were arguably closer than the championship results implied. Although neither were really contenders for races in the Year of Shane, Kostecki was extremely impressive in the second race at Sydney where he won the pole, led the most laps, and made two passes for the lead; unfortunately, it was the only race he led naturally all season.

Corey LaJoie: Like Chris Buescher, LaJoie is another NASCAR underdog that my model really likes. This year he ranked 9th in my teammate model despite ranking 33rd in speed among frequent Cup starters. While he's clearly been better than his equipment for years, you could really see it this year as he muscled his crapwagon to battle Martin Truex, Jr. and Chase Elliott for the win at the summer Atlanta race before Elliott passed him for the win on the next to last lap and he took the lead on track at Daytona as well. Ranking 25th in lead shares doesn't sound like a lot but when your car is eight positions slower than that, it's kind of a lot. He even beat Buescher in lead shares despite Buescher actually winning! I have the sneaking suspicion this might be underrating him, especially when I note that he beat Landon Cassill in Cup by a greater margin than A.J. Allmendinger did in Xfinity (in one of Dinger's best years ever) and he beat Haley last year in Cup by a larger margin than Dinger did in Xfinity last year as well. I really think in competitive equipment, he'd be a perpetual playoff driver, but probably much more of an Alex Bowman than an Elliott or Larson. But if you're looking for the next Ross Chastain, right now I think LaJoie is your best bet.

José María López: Having a driver for the premier Toyota World Endurance Championship team immediately following a Cup driver in a 30th place car is very funny to me, but I stand by it. While LaJoie drastically outperformed his equipment in 2022, López drastically underachieved in his. He was not only the slowest of the six Toyota drivers in average speed this year, but also the least dominant as he had the fewest cumulative races led as well. Furthermore, he and co-drivers Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi finished 3rd in the championship in a Hypercar field that only had three full-time entries, even being beaten by the Alpine Elf car that was clearly slower than the Toyotas. And they didn't win Le Mans. To be fair, all three cars were extremely close in points and they all won two of the six races. However, I'm not going to hold it against Conway and Kobayashi, because they were actually very good (Conway was great even.) The reason the #7 team lost the championship probably comes down to the team's retirement at Sebring when López crashed after chopping a lapped car while leading. Had they went on to win that race, they would have won the championship. Even though this placement seems shocking for such a big name, I hope I've made it clearer now.

Christian Lundgaard: I admit it. I was deeply skeptical when Rahal signed him for his IndyCar operation because he seemed to drop off considerably between his 2020 and 2021 Formula 2 seasons, finishing 12th in points in his 2nd F2 season while his 17-year-old rookie teammate Théo Pourchaire finished 5th in points and beat him by a staggering margin of 14-2. But despite the bizarrely mediocre 2021, he was competitive immediately in IndyCar drastically outperforming Jack Harvey and he was only barely worse than Graham Rahal (if he was even worse at all), delivering the Rahal team its best finish in over two years with a second on the Indy road course. He wasn't the best rookie in IndyCar, but he did probably exceed my expectations more than any driver I can think of in 2022, even Ross Chastain (because I already knew he was good last year.)

Rob MacCachren: He became the first driver to win the Baja 1000 and the Baja 500, the two premier races of desert truck racing, in the same season since Ivan Stewart in 1998. Although many drivers have won both events (and MacCachren had already won both of them several times), it's surprisingly difficult to win both events in the same year. Having said that, even though the races are held to be highly prestigious by a lot of Americans, I think the competition pool is rather shallow. MacCachren is now 57 years old, and it's hard to find drivers that old remaining competitive in most other disciplines of motorsport. I can understand if you think he should be higher though.

Tadasuke Makino: My absolute last addition to the list (replacing Oliver Rowland, who was my last cut), he placed highly in both of Japan's major league championships, finishing 5th in Super Formula and 3rd in Super GT while winning the season finale at Motegi in the latter series. Although he failed to win in Super Formula, he did significantly dominate his teammate Hiroki Otsu who finished 9th in the championship, beating him by a margin of 8-1 in shared finishes.

David Malukas: He failed to win both the IndyCar and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year awards even though he was clearly the best at both. Of all the rookies in the four major league open wheel series in 2022, Malukas was the highest-rated in my teammate model thanks to utterly dominating Takuma Sato by a 9-3 margin in shared finishes, and let's not forget that Sato won the Indy 500 a mere two years prior. He ranked 7th among all IndyCar drivers in my teammate model, even beating the likes of Josef Newgarden and Will Power, which is ridiculous and only shows how underrated Scott McLaughlin was entering the year, but still... this was not your typical rookie. He particularly proved it at Gateway, where driving up through the field on fresh tires, he passed McLaughlin for 2nd in the closing laps and probably would have passed Newgarden for the win a lap or two later. In a COYNE car. A team that has never won an oval race in over 30 years of IndyCar racing legally. I wanted to move him up a tier from Lundgaard, but refrained once I realized that Lundgaard had a greater speed percentile - admittedly in a faster car. Regardless, this kid's going places.

Brent Marks: One of the leading lights of sprint car racing in 2022, he was a prolific winner all over the place, winning five races in the World of Outlaws including the prestigious Kings Royal event, five races in the All-Star Circuit of Champions (both in part-time schedules), and eleven races in the Central PA Sprint Car Point Series, although I think Anthony Macri had a similar record in sprint car racing that was superior to Marks. Nonetheless, I felt Marks should be listed because he won just as often as the perennial World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet did even though Marks ran far fewer races than Sweet, and Marks had a lot of other wins all over the place too while Sweet did not.

Victor Martins: Martins won the Formula 3 championship for the ART Grand Prix team. Although this has been one of the fastest teams in minor-league open wheel racing for years, they had never won the F3 title before even with drivers like Théo Pourchaire and Christian Lundgaard in the past. While I am increasingly skeptical I should have any F3 drivers at all (even though I imagine most people would include them on such a list), he did beat his teammates Juan Manuel Correa (who finished 13th in points) and Grégoire Saucy (a driver I erroneously rated last year who finished 15th in points this year) by a huge margin.

Ritomo Miyata: The rising Japanese star was the highest Super Formula driver in my teammate model in 2022 and he also earned his best points finishes in both Super Formula (4th) and Super GT (6th) and he's been around a while (even though he's only 23, that was his fifth year in Super GT.) He earned a Super GT win at Fuji but failed to win in Super Formula. The only thing preventing me from rating him higher is that the talent pool in Super Formula was really shallow this year. Miyata's driver rating this year was only .124. The last time a driver had a rating that low in my teammate model and led the series was Pedro de la Rosa in 1997. Regardless, Miyata is clearly on the upswing and I should acknowledge that.

Nicklas Nielsen: After winning the WEC LMGTE Am championship alongside teammates Alessio Rovera and François Perrodo, the trio switched to the LMP2 Pro-Am class for 2022 and again won four races en route to winning that championship, but there were far fewer teams competing in that particular class and in the overall LMP2 class, he wasn't particularly a standout, posting a merely slightly average speed percentile while still leading the team as usual. However, I still listed him primarily because he had the fastest average race speed in the 24 Hours of Daytona's GTD class, a massive class that had 84 drivers competing in it.

Dennis Olsen: The DTM rookie finished 10th in the championship for an SSR Performance team that was brand new for 2022. The main reason I listed him despite an average championship finish is that he outperformed his teammate Laurens Vanthoor for basically the entire season and Vanthoor (who finished 18th in points) has been one of the most consistent GT sports car drivers in the last decade. Now that DTM is effectively a German GT rather than a touring car series, I would have easily expected Vanthoor to outperform Olsen but he did not. Additionally, he also had the fastest average speed in the GTD Pro class in the 24 Hours of Daytona over Vanthoor who was his teammate there as well. Maybe if Olsen had finished the race instead of Vanthoor, Mathieu Jaminet would have been unable to pass him in that frantic NASCAR-esque duel in the closing laps.

Graham Rahal: One of IndyCar's most consistent drivers failed to finish in the top ten in the standings for the first time since 2014. Having said that, he continues to lead his father's team and perform well even if he has grown increasingly invisible. He was the 5th highest rated driver in my teammate model, although it's certainly worth noting his teammates were a rookie in Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey, a driver who had a concussion at Texas (the second race of the season) and struggled to recover. Although Lundgaard was a lot flashier, Rahal still steadily outfinished him beating him 9-4 in shared races, but they were a lot closer in speed as each driver was faster than the other eight times this year. I don't think Rahal is bad yet, but he's really grown complacent and I would not be at all surprised if Lundgaard overtakes him next year.

Logan Sargeant: He had a respectable season in Formula 2 this year, claiming 4th in the championship, the highest points finish for a driver in his first year in the series. Although his teammate Liam Lawson was considered one of the championship favorites, Sargeant was ahead of him in the championship for most of the second half of the season until Lawson overtook him in the final race. Although Lawson did win four races to Sargeant's two, it's worth noting that all four of Lawson's wins came in sprint races where the starting grid was determined by a field inversion while Sargeant controlled two feature races from pole, so he was probably faster. Sargeant faced immense pressure to finish sixth in points or better to secure his F1 ride with Williams for 2023 and he delivered in the clutch, but since he collected his needed Superlicense points and Colton Herta did not, I've seen a lot of people arguing that he's better than Herta on that basis. News flash: he's not.

Mick Schumacher: After Nikita Mazepin was suddenly fired from Williams at the start of the F1 season as part of the anti-Russian backlash after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he was suddenly replaced by the far superior veteran Kevin Magnussen, who naturally proved to give the son of Michael a much stiffer challenge, but for all the criticism he got, I think he did okay. Although Magnussen did double Schumacher in points, Schumacher actually won the head-to-head 9-6 and they were extremely close in other stats too. Schumacher also beat Magnussen in average speed, with a speed percentile of 28.85% to Magnussen's 26.13%, and they weren't far off in terms of passing either: Magnussen had an overtake record of 56-93 to Schumacher's 52-99. They were actually really close. Now I still took Magnussen higher and I'll explain why, but I do think Magnussen was overpraised this year while Mick wasn't that bad at all. Maybe he'd have been perceived differently if he had a different last name.

Gordon Shedden: The brother-in-law of the aforementioned Rory Butcher, this British Touring Car Championship legend tied for his worst full-season points finish (a 7th), but I still thought he was marginally deserving. Unlike Dans Cammish and Lloyd, he still beat his teammate Daniel Rowbottom, who also declined from 9th place with a win to a winless 12th place, and he still won two races and ranked fourth with three fastest races. Having said that, he did arguably underachieve this year finishing 7th in points with the 5th fastest car and the expectations are certainly higher for a driver who already won three championships.

Robin Shute: One of my last cuts in 2021, he won his third Pikes Peak Hill Climb in the last four years and I increasingly felt I need to recognize this. Sometimes greatness is only recognized in hindsight and when I re-edit the 2021 list at some point for consideration for my book, I may replace one of the Formula 3 or Formula 4 drivers I ranked there with Shute.

Luca Stolz: In his rookie season in the German DTM sports car series, Stolz finished a respectable sixth in the championship and earned a win at the Nürburgring. Most notably, he beat Marco Wittmann, who won two DTM championships when it was still a touring series, even though Wittmann had a faster average speed. He trounced his teammate Arjun Maini, who only finished 19th in points even though he'd already had a year of experience. Additionally, Stolz was also on the winning Bathurst 12 Hour team, where he and his three co-drivers did win against some big names, including Shane van Gisbergen and Broc Feeney, who finished a minute and a half behind in the other Triple Eight car. He was one of my last additions to the list.

Lance Stroll: Similarly to the situation with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher, Vettel doubled Stroll in the points standings even though Stroll only narrowly lost 8-7 in their head-to-head teammate record. This actually ranked Stroll ahead of Vettel in my teammate model this year simply because Vettel was rated so much higher based on his championship-caliber years. Vettel did have a solid speed advantage, beating Stroll 42.40-36.09% and was clearly better, but I would also say Vettel is expected to do more than Magnussen and consider Stroll to be roughly analogous with Schumacher on that basis. Vettel and Stroll also had very similar passing records, with Vettel at 50-56 to Stroll's 57-64. Vettel was better, mainly because Stroll crashed too much, but I think Stroll remains slightly over-hated by F1 fans, probably because of his huge family backing. Should he still be there for a seventh season next year? Was he ever one of the top 20 open wheel drivers in the world? I don't disagree, but I still think he's credible. A lot of people throw him in the same category with Nicholas Latifi and I certainly would not.

Daniel Suárez: If there is one driver who exceeded my expectations more than Christian Lundgaard this year, it might have been Suárez. After his early seasons where he went winless for Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing and rarely even contended, I probably would have predicted that he would never go on to win a race, or if he did it would only happen in some fluke situation. But he had a very real speed this year that took me aback even though his teammate Ross Chastain was way faster, ranking 5th in speed to Suárez's 16th and having a faster average race speed 28 times to Suárez's 8. In addition to his dominant win at Sonoma, he had a number of other electrifying races, particularly the Coca-Cola 600, where he had a 4-0 lead change record. Since his pass of Chris Buescher at Sonoma was the only pass for the lead that race, that gave him an entire lead share and his overall 15-9 lead change record, 2-0 TNL record, 9th place ranking in lead shares, and 12th place ranking in cumulative races led, were quite honestly more than I ever thought he'd do in his career. Having said that, the gap between Suárez and Chastain was way too large, so I ended up ranking this year's similar veteran breakout Bubba Wallace higher.

Ricky Taylor: Although he and co-driver Filipe Albuquerque combined to win a series-high four wins the IMSA DPi class, Taylor dropped off considerably from 2021. While he had actually been the team linchpin in 2021, Albuquerque dominated him completely in 2022 and beat him in nearly all statistical categories. While Albuquerque had a 6-3 lead change record and a whopping 3.08 lead shares (a fairly incredible number for a class that only had ten races), Taylor's lead change record was a mere 0-3. Having said that, Taylor was still close to Albuquerque in speed and not too far off in cumulative races led even though Albuquerque was making most of the passes.

Bobby Thompson: Score another one for the underdogs. When I reviewed TouringCarTimes's top 30 touring car drivers of 2022 list, I was shocked to note that they had ranked a BTCC driver who finished 14th in the championship, but the other analyst I consulted concurred with that assessment and ranked him 6th over a lot of winners, so I did some more research and noted that Thompson's three teammates, Árón Taylor-Smith, Will Powell, and Lewis Hamilton's half-brother Nicolas all finished 21st in the points or worse, and the three drivers combined for less than half of Thompson's points total. He had a speed percentile of 55.89% while Taylor-Smith's was 32.99%, Powell's was 8.10%, and Hamilton's was 4.46%. Thompson also won the Jack Sears Trophy this year, which is awarded to the highest points finisher who had never scored a podium before. Okay, I'm convinced. If I'm going to list Sérgio Sette Câmara and Corey LaJoie, I should probably acknowledge this too.

Tanner Thorson: I really couldn't decide what to do with him this year. Last year I rated him in the C class because he won 7 USAC Midget races and 5 USAC Sprint races in 2021, but this year it seems he dropped out of full-time competition and didn't win much of anything. He did however win the Chili Bowl, which is one of the most difficult races in motorsports to win, and beat the likes of Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Buddy Kofoid, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Did he suddenly lose talent just because he dropped out of full-time USAC competition? I would say no, but by that logic, Oscar Piastri should still be here too since he's clearly one of the best 200 drivers in the world even though he didn't compete in anything. Ultimately, I decided the Chili Bowl winner should be acknowledged even though he didn't do much else, but I might have made a different decision if he hadn't had such a powerhouse season in 2021. This is one situation where I probably did consider a bit more than the performance in the given year when doing my ranking.

Yuki Tsunoda: He did about the same as he did last year but it looked a little better because Pierre Gasly didn't overachieve as much this time around. In his sophomore season, Tsunoda actually outperformed Gasly in passing, scoring a 51-48 overtake record to Gasly's 49-58. But by all other metrics, Gasly was still better (even if they looked considerably closer in 2022 than 2021.) Gasly ranked 11th in speed while Tsunoda was 15th (they were separated by about the same margin as Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.) As with the Vettel/Stroll and Magnussen/Schumacher pairings, the superior teammate doubled the inferior teammate in points. Gasly also beat Tsunoda 8-5 in shared finishes, but Tsunoda is still so underrated in my model that he ended up actually beating Gasly in my 2022 driver ratings this year. I'd definitely say he was better than Schumacher and Stroll for sure, but I think those three teammate pairings are still comparable.

Charles Weerts: He and co-driver Dries Vanthoor just won their third consecutive championship in the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup, they had their highest win total with five wins this year, and Weerts is still only 21 years old. My issue here is that I'm not sure how much Weerts is contributing. Vanthoor is obviously the team leader and has won a bunch of sports car races all over the place in recent years while Weerts hasn't done too much without Vanthoor yet. I was unable to find lap times for any of the Stéphane Ratel Organisation series, which is annoying, so I can't really figure out how much Weerts is contributing to the team and this is kind of a big question mark right now. File this one as "to be determined" and it's possible at some point I'll drastically reevaluate him, but at this point I believe he is probably worthy of placement.

Mariano Werner: Probably the worst omission from last year's list, Werner won Turismo Carretera, the most prestigious of the three major Argentinean championships for the second consecutive year in 2021, but this year he dropped to second place. Like I said in the Jorge Barrio entry, this was by far my biggest blind spot in racing when considering how successful drivers from this scene have been in international racing and I realized I needed to rate these drivers more highly than I have in the past. I don't really blame anyone for ignoring this scene though, because even though I do think the series is highly regarded by people who know about it, even the Spanish language Wikipedia hasn't finished archiving this year's results yet.

Marco Wittmann: Much like Gordon Shedden, Wittmann was a great touring car champion who had a less than great season but as with Shedden, he did certainly perform adequately with the equipment he had this year finishing 8th in points while his teammate Esteban Muth only finished 29th in points. Even though it was one of his weaker DTM seasons, the main reason I still listed him was the season finale where he prevailed in a frenetic duel with three-time DTM champion René Rast at Hockenheim. In one of the best battles of the season, Wittmann and Rast traded the lead three times in a series where it was incredibly hard to pass even though Wittmann seemed to usually have a slower car than Rast. That one performance pushes him over the line to me albeit only barely.

Because my driver season capsules for the C- tier drivers were significantly longer than last year, I'm going to split my columns into a series of four for each group of fifty instead of a series of three columns as I did last year. I will have my second column rating the C tier drivers in a few days. Hope you enjoyed this. I spent far too much effort on this while neglecting too many other real world responsibilities.

Sean Wrona is the Managing Editor of racermetrics.com, the Webmaster of race-database.com, the winner of the 2010 Ultimate Typing Championship at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, and the ratings compiler and statistician for the Mensa Scrabble-by-Mail SIG. He earned a master's in applied statistics from Cornell University in 2008 and previously digitized several seasons of NBA box scores on basketball-reference.com. He is the author of Nerds Per Minute: A History of Competitive Typing. You may contact him at sean@racermetrics.com.