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Top 200 Drivers of 2023 (Drivers 100 to 91)

by Sean Wrona

I have decided to split the remainder of my top 200 drivers list into ten columns instead of simply having four columns of 50 as I did in previous years. Ideally I will finish one column for each group of ten drivers a day and then release my final column ranking the top ten drivers on January 8. I realize I have been writing way too much for anyone to want to read at one sitting, and I figure if I split it up, it will be easier to read and it will likely attract more notice, build more suspense, and be more attractive to algorithms. I also burned out several times while in the middle of writing the last column and took longer to complete that than I wanted (my goal was to finish the entire series by the end of the year, and now I realize that won't happen.) If I give myself more structure in terms of writing a little each day, I can probably also get this done sooner and be less likely to burn out by not overdoing it on certain days (as I did yesterday for instance.) The first five columns will focus on the C+ tier (drivers I judged to have very good seasons from an international perspective), while the remaining five columns will center on the 50 drivers I consider elite, with the first 25 belonging to the E- tier (drivers who had great seasons but were still lacking something in some way), while the final 25 drivers mark the E tier (drivers who in my opinion had unambiguously elite seasons.) There will definitely be some surprises here and likely a few drivers you've never even heard of. A couple drivers I listed here don't even have Wikipedia pages. Furthermore, in a year where one driver dominated Formula 1 to an extent never seen before, I rated a lot of the other F1 drivers much lower than other pundits would because I do think the gap between Max Verstappen's performance and everyone else's should be reflected on this list. There are a lot of drivers I rated from other series over better-known F1 drivers this year, and that might be controversial. Having said that, as it turned out, I do have more F1 drivers in my top 100 than I usually do, even though I have a lot fewer in my top 25 or my top 10 than you will likely expect. I have already finished the list and all I need to do is write it. Hopefully, by going ten drivers at a time, it will both be easier for me to write and easier for you to read.

Before we begin, some thoughts on Gil de Ferran. Shortly before I finished writing last night's column, it was revealed that de Ferran had died of a heart attack while behind the wheel at a club racing event and I felt his career deserved another look because de Ferran was a driver who always struck me as never getting the respect he deserved. Part of it is that he came of age at the dawn of the CART/IRL split when IndyCar racing was beginning to lose its credibility with large swaths of the public, particularly in the United States. Unlike many of his peers like Alex Zanardi, Paul Tracy, Hélio Castroneves, or Tony Kanaan, he didn't have a bombastic or over-the-top personality to draw attention to himself. His win total was rather paltry compared to a lot of other champions because he spent half his career with teams that were not very fast and by the time he finally got a championship-caliber car at Team Penske, he had to face arguably the strongest fields in CART history, which prevented anyone from amassing large win counts. He also was a lot better at consistency than he was at dominance, a style he might have instilled in his protege Simon Pagenaud. Don't get me wrong: de Ferran was capable of dominating races pretty frequently, but he was better at consistency and his dominance went a little ignored, because much like Martin Truex, Jr., most of the races he dominated tended to be very boring and he wasn't as strong of a duelist as some other drivers. For all these reasons, he seemed to not get the attention he deserved and faded into the background more than almost any other driver with a similar level of success. If you're a results fundamentalist who never watched him race and only looks at finishing records in retrospect, his career might look similar to those of slightly below average champions like Danny Sullivan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Simon Pagenaud, even though he won two titles while those other drivers only won once each. But I have thought for a long time that de Ferran was the second-best driver of the IndyCar split period behind only Juan Pablo Montoya. Better than Zanardi. Better than Tracy. Better than Sébastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti (at least if you consider no years after 2007.) But he doesn't seem to get that degree of respect and I would like to correct the record.

de Ferran first came to international attention when he competed in British Formula 3, which at that time was generally regarded as the second-most prestigious feeder series for Formula 1 behind only the F3000 championship. In his first season, de Ferran finished third in the championship behind only Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard, who would both go on to win over ten races in Formula One each. When both of them left the series in 1992, de Ferran won the championship in a blowout, outscoring Philippe Adams by a nearly 2-1 margin in addition to sweeping his teammate André Ribeiro (who was also a member of the CART 1995 rookie class) in shared finishes and beating him 102-13 in points. Could de Ferran have matched Barrichello and Coulthard in F1 if he had gotten an opportunity? It's hard to say. He was rated substantially higher than them in every iteration my teammate model, but they clearly had faster ascents as they were both four to five years younger than de Ferran, who was a bit older than a lot of the emerging minor league drivers in Europe. And admittedly, de Ferran did retire from the IRL before he was in decline while Barrichello and Coulthard both had a string of mostly mediocre seasons at the tail ends of their careers. In his British F3 championship season, de Ferran drove for Jackie Stewart's son Paul. He stayed with the team for 1993, where he moved up to Formula 3000. de Ferran finished 5th in points with a win at Silverstone while Stewart was 9th in points, but de Ferran wasn't significantly far behind most of the other title contenders as nobody really dominated that year. Olivier Panis won three straight races to win the championship, but didn't do much else besides that. The next year, de Ferran finished 3rd in the 1994 championship while teammate Didier Cottaz was 6th, but that year had few particularly successful drivers with the exception of his future CART contemporaries Max Papis (5th) and Kenny Bräck (11th.) The F1 teams weren't hugely interested in de Ferran probably because he had too slow of an ascent at too old an age. Oh, well. Their loss. He had only one serious F1 test for the Footwork team, where he was slower than Jos Verstappen, but that day was overshadowed by him cracking his head open on a truck door, which led him to bleed profusely and effectively marking the end of his F1 dreams.

No matter. In that era, most of the budding open wheel prospects didn't really regard CART as any less serious than F1, particularly in the wake of Nigel Mansell switching to CART while he was the defending F1 champion. de Ferran had a test for Jim Hall in 1994, a legendary car owner who had swept all three 500-mile races with Al Unser in 1978 and utterly dominated the CART season with Johnny Rutherford in 1980. Hall's Chaparral Racing team broke new ground by introducing ground-effects chassis to IndyCar, but Hall's team withdrew for most of a decade before returning in 1991, this time buying ready-made chassis instead of producing his own. Although John Andretti ended up winning Hall's first race upon his return at Surfer's Paradise in 1991, the team had failed to win a race for the four years since with Andretti in 1991-92 and then with Teo Fabi in 1993-94. There was not much buzz or hype about de Ferran from the beginning and expectations were low. Hall's sponsor Pennzoil nearly rejected de Ferran because they wanted an established driver better known to Americans but relented when they were impressed by his testing times. For most of his 1995 CART rookie season, de Ferran was overshadowed by two other rookies who wouldn't come close to ultimately matching his career: Christian Fittipaldi and the aforementioned Ribeiro. Although it's easy to forget now, Fittipaldi was the driver who easily had the highest expectations. Not only did he have the name recognition because his uncle Emerson was one of CART's biggest stars, but Christian had won the F3000 title as a 20-year-old rookie in 1991 at a much younger age than de Ferran was when he failed to win the F3000 title against much weaker competition. Fittipaldi's title came against a stacked field including many future racing legends: Alex Zanardi, Damon Hill, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Laurent Aïello, and Allan McNish. Fittipaldi then followed that up by beating his teammates in all three of his F1 years before he switched to CART. For most of the season, Fittipaldi was heavily favored in the Rookie of the Year battle, especially after finishing 2nd in the Indy 500 as a rookie. At Loudon, Ribeiro delivered Honda its first IndyCar win, presaging the marque's future impending dominance. de Ferran meanwhile had a long string of DNFs, including six crash DNFs in his first 12 starts, most notably a crash at the start of the Indy 500. Although he did dominate from the pole at Cleveland, de Ferran didn't really make himself known until the last two races of the season when he finished 2nd in the penultimate race at Vancouver and won at Laguna Seca to overtake Fittipaldi for the ROTY in the final race (Fittipaldi had led the rookie battle for the entire season until that point.) In addition to giving Hall his first win in almost five whole seasons, he also won the last race before the CART/IRL split began, and de Ferran would eventually become known for winning the last of things.

Starting in 1996, de Ferran became known for his consistency as he improved to 6th in the championship, won at Cleveland, and finished only behind the two Ganassi cars, the two Newman-Haas cars, and Al Unser, Jr. in the championship. In a year when the drivers on Firestone tires utterly dominated, de Ferran was along with Michael Andretti one of only two drivers to win on Goodyears in a year Penske shockingly went winless for the first time since 1976. Hall retired as a car owner after that season, and Pennzoil left to eventually hook up with Panther Racing in the IRL. de Ferran ended up replacing Robby Gordon at Walker Racing when Gordon defected to NASCAR amidst a cloud of hostility after an 18th-place finish in the championship. Gordon had talked trash about his Ford engines considering the massive deficit they had to the Hondas, culminating in a notorious Road America race where he intentionally grenaded his engine to sever his first of many manufacturer relationships. Walker did switch to Hondas for 1997, which certainly helped de Ferran, but he still had the inferior Goodyear tires. No matter. de Ferran had what I think was probably the best season of his career even though he went winless in 1997 when he finished 2nd in the championship despite having what I believe was a massive equipment deficit to the Ganassi cars and all other cars on Firestone tires (it was quite similar to Pato O'Ward this year really.) de Ferran was one of only three drivers on Goodyears who made the top ten along with Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti in a year when about the same number of drivers were on both makes of tire. Additionally, he actually led the CART series in lead shares that year despite not winning. One of the keys to de Ferran's success is that although he might not have had the raw talent of a few of his contemporaries, he was generally regarded to have the best engineering mind and the best racecraft of the CART drivers of his time. Like Scott Dixon after him, de Ferran was picked as Honda's lead test driver and he tested for them constantly, much more than any of the other Honda drivers. They also featured him prominently in ads. His insane work ethic helped him to become probably the best strategic and analytical driver in his heyday, and that reaped great dividends even if he maybe didn't have the wow factor of the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Alex Zanardi, Michael Andretti, or Paul Tracy. However, as more and more teams started switching to the dominant Reynard chassis, Honda engines, and Goodyear tires in 1998 and 1999, Walker Racing's one car effort began to suffer, especially with mechanical reliability. de Ferran went winless in 1998 and only won once on strategy at Portland in what was the last win for Goodyear tires before a string of five crash DNFs in the second half of the season derailed it yet again. He was beginning to fade into the background.

Enter Roger Penske. If de Ferran had recently struggled, then Penske had seriously fallen off a cliff. After winning numerous championships and Indy 500s as well as winning every season from 1976-1995, they had gone winless in 1996, 1998, and 1999. Although they were competitive in both '96 and '97, they weren't even close to contending those last two years. Penske's chassis were nowhere near as fast as the Reynards, their Mercedes engines were far off the Hondas, and they could not contend with the Goodyear tires as well as de Ferran himself could. Penske was understandably fiercely loyal to Al Unser, Jr. after Unser gave him what was probably the team's best season ever in 1994, but he had fallen into alcoholism and it was significantly affecting his driving. Despite winning three races in a row and contending for the title in 1997 before an epic collapse, Paul Tracy was fired basically for insubordination after unsuccessfully trying to convince Penske to switch the dominant Reynard-Honda-Firestone package. Tracy was replaced by de Ferran's ex-British F3 teammate Ribeiro, who had what was probably the worst full-time season in Penske IndyCar history including a shocking DNQ at Nazareth in an era when it was almost impossible to DNQ. After Ribeiro's retirement that year, Penske was unable to even get a full-time driver for that car in 1999 and they cycled through a number of part-time drivers (including the late Gonzalo Rodríguez) and didn't even enter the #3 car at every event. Penske really looked like it was in a death spiral, and at this point they knew it was time to clean house. He finally switched to the dominant Reynard-Honda-Firestone package for 2000, but that wasn't as much of an advantage as it was in previous years because more and more teams started using that package over time and the withdrawal of Goodyear negated that advantage. He hired the father of some future Daytona 500 winner away from the Rahal team to manage his CART team, and then he signed Greg Moore and Gil de Ferran to replace Al Unser, Jr. and the part-time rotation. He suffered another setback when Moore was killed in the 1999 season finale after he had already been signed, and Hélio Castroneves was hastily named as his replacement.

Although Moore had a much stronger reputation than de Ferran in the late '90s (and indeed, I think he was probably more talented; he was by far the highest-rated CART driver ever in my model and posted the highest ratings in both 1998 and 1999, which de Ferran actually never did in his career), his death suddenly thrust de Ferran into the unwelcome role of bringing a third team back from the dead, and Penske's situation seemed far more dire and desperate than even Hall and Walker's had been. But all of Penske's shakeups worked and de Ferran started the 2000 season off with a bang with back-to-back poles at Homestead and Long Beach, followed shortly thereafter with his first oval win and Penske's 100th win at Nazareth and another at Portland. For most of the season, he was within championship contention but not really considered any kind of prohibitive favorite as a bunch of drivers - even Roberto Moreno - traded the points lead. Nonetheless, de Ferran's consistency carried him to the championship even though Castroneves won more races and was more dominant. His career highlight for a lot of people came at the season finale at Fontana, where instead of playing it safe to protect his points lead, he went all out for the pole and set what remains the fastest qualifying lap in motorsports history at 241.428 mph; despite CART drivers usually running two qualifying laps at Fontana in that era, he set his record speed in one lap and parked it in an ultimate baller move. Personally, I am more impressed by him bringing three teams back from the dead than a single qualifying lap, but it remains one of the biggest parts of his legacy for a lot of people. Many people also cite de Ferran's Fontana lap as the closed-course world record, but it actually isn't. On August 27, 1987, A.J. Foyt set the actual closed-course world record at a private test in Fort Stockton, Texas at 257.123 mph. Why don't more people talk about that? I give de Ferran much more credit for Penske's comeback than I do Castroneves, because at that point he had vastly more experience, he was renowned as a test driver par excellence and brilliant strategic mind, and he was signed and also won first, which indicates he began the process of developing Penske's 2000 package and to some extent Castroneves likely piggybacked off of de Ferran's success. This is now forgotten because of the number of Indy 500 wins both of them ended up with and to be sure Castroneves certainly contributed to Penske's return to prominence in a major way, but in the years they were both active, de Ferran was clearly better even though Castroneves won more in both 2000 and 2001.

The 2001 CART season was a virtual repeat of 2000. Once again, the series had insane parity with 11 unique winners in 20 races both times. de Ferran once again came from behind to win the championship in the clutch late in the season even though other drivers led the points for most of the season (for the vast majority of 2001, it was Kenny Bräck.) And once again, Castroneves won 3 races to de Ferran's 2 and was more dominant but de Ferran pulled through mainly due to consistency. de Ferran was even the only driver to win CART races both on an oval and on a road course both seasons. de Ferran effectively cemented his championship defense with a win at the British Rockingham oval (not to be confused with the NASCAR track). Bräck was still narrowly leading the points over de Ferran after having won four of the season's first seven oval races, and the Rockingham event would be the last oval race of the season. Qualifying was canceled due to a drainage issue when water seeped onto the track earlier that weekend, which placed Bräck and de Ferran on the front row; together, they would lead the entire race trading the lead back and forth. Bräck overtook de Ferran on the outside the next to last lap to claim what seemed like a certain victory, especially because he had been the oval king all season while de Ferran had not yet won. But de Ferran like a fox caught Bräck off guard on the final lap and essentially repeated the move Bräck had made and won in a seriously David Pearson-esque head fake. Bräck was never really as good again after that. Even though Bräck still technically led the championship after that race, he and the Rahal team were so demoralized that you instantly knew it was over, especially with the team's intermittent struggles on road courses. de Ferran's flag-to-flag win at the next race at Houston handed him the points lead, and Bräck had such a collapse that de Ferran ended up even clinching the championship early, which was rather unexpected. The main difference between 2000 and 2001 was that the Penske team did make its highly-publicized return to Indy for the first time since the CART/IRL split began. After almost all the IRL's big stars crashed out or got taken out by mechanical issues, the CART drivers and teams who crossed over ended up lapping all the regular full-season IRL teams and Castroneves led de Ferran in a 1-2 finish. I know I'm alone on this one, but I think de Ferran was actually robbed. de Ferran was leading at Indy entering the pits under caution on lap 137, but Castroneves beat him out of the pits. Prior to the ensuing restart, Castroneves was penalized for switching lanes and cutting off Tony Stewart in the pits (switching lanes in the pits was forbidden by IRL rules at the time.) If you watch the footage closely, you will notice that de Ferran came out of the pits in second behind Castroneves but beat out Stewart, who left the pits in third. For some reason, on the restart they handed Stewart the lead back even though de Ferran had beaten Stewart out and committed no infraction. Hence they restarted in the order Stewart, Castroneves, and de Ferran and the IRL officials effectively allowed Castroneves to pass de Ferran despite violating their pit lane switch rule. After Stewart pitted on a later caution to top off, that effectively decided the race. Considering so much of Castroneves's legacy is built on the back-to-back Indy 500 wins to start his career (both of which were controversial) and the Indy 500 wins are the main reason for Castroneves's high reputation as well as probably the reason de Ferran has faded into obscurity more than he should have, it really rubs me the wrong way that the officials stole that race from de Ferran, which seems much more cut-and-dry to me than the 2002 mess, and it bothers me more that it seems like no one else but me even noticed. But I digress.

While the IRL had tremendous egg on its face after all its regular-season teams got lapped by the CART interlopers, the defeat was short-lived. After Penske's win, their sponsor Marlboro wanted to return to Indy, but according to the Tobacco Manufacturer Settlement Agreement, tobacco manufacturers were only allowed to sponsor entries in one racing series so Penske was not allowed to enter Marlboro-sponsored cars in both CART and the IRL. As a result, he chose to withdraw from CART (the series he had co-founded) to enter the IRL permanently starting in 2002. That was the beginning of the death of CART. After Honda and Toyota withdrew from CART after the 2002 season to enter the IRL for 2003 and dragged many of their star teams and drivers along with them, CART was effectively dead. After the Indy domination, most fans expected the Penske cars to run away with the championship. That didn't happen as Sam Hornish, Jr. ended up rising to the occasion and successfully defended his title, winning five races while both Penske drivers only won twice, which effectively set him up as de Ferran's replacement upon his retirement in 2003. Nonetheless, de Ferran was still a significant factor and led the points entering the penultimate race at Chicagoland, where he suffered a crash and concussion that took him out for the season finale. He had another concussion in a crash at Phoenix in 2003, which may have been the impetus for his retirement. After being in contention in the 2002 Indy 500 until a loose wheel on his final pit stop, he finally got his Indy 500 win in style in 2003 passing his teammate Castroneves for the lead and win (after Castroneves had not made any passes for the lead on track in either of his preceding wins.) de Ferran added wins at Nashville and the season finale at Texas to nearly come from behind, losing the championship to a prepubescent Scott Dixon by a mere 18 points. When you consider the race he missed, he did have a higher points per race average than Dixon did as well. As I mentioned, de Ferran had truly become a master of winning the last of things: the last race before the CART/IRL split, the last two CART titles he contested, his last Indy 500, and his last race. de Ferran was the first driver to win the last race he started since Roger McCluskey in 1979, and the first to win his final Indy 500 since Bobby Unser in 1981. He was also the only Penske driver to win a title in his first season with the team between Unser, Jr. in 1994 and Josef Newgarden in 2017.

de Ferran weirdly seemed like an anachronism in an era of more bombastic personalities. He let his driving do the talking rather than developing a media personality that threatened to overshadow his successful driving career like Castroneves did. While plenty of CART and IRL drivers in his era embarrassed themselves by getting embroiled in split politics and trashing the other series, he stayed out of it. He was quiet and plainspoken in an era that was kind of loud and edgy. While at the time, a lot of people praised drivers like Paul Tracy for showing personality, the kind of personality those drivers showed didn't really age well while de Ferran's has aged much better. I've said most of this before but it is difficult to understand the full scope of de Ferran's greatness just by looking at the numbers unlike a lot of his contemporaries. I do think he was the second-best driver of the split period. Only he and Juan Pablo Montoya won both a CART title and an Indy 500 win, and no other IndyCar driver I can think of in my lifetime has had to bring three dying teams back from the dead and successfully done it. Robby Gordon finished 18th in CART points in 1996; de Ferran replaced him and finished 2nd. Al Unser, Jr. finished 21st in 1999; de Ferran replaced him and won the title. de Ferran posted a winning record against every open wheel teammate he ever competed against and no driver did better or worse than him before or after he left a team in his IndyCar career. In my last update, de Ferran ranks 75th among all open wheel drivers in my teammate model at .208, ahead of many F1 champions and all IndyCar champions except for Rodger Ward, Nigel Mansell, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, and Álex Palou. He's basically dead even with Mika Häkkinen in my model and in fact has the slight edge over him, and considering they both had careers of similar length and retired before they became bad drivers, that may indeed be a valid comparison (Häkkinen just got the benefit of faster cars in a much less competitive series.) I don't think a lot of people realize how great he was if they didn't watch him race because even though he had a quite strong statistical record, that statistical record does not accurately reflect the importance of his career, and I wanted to take this occasion to give him his due.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming: the beginning of my top 100 list for 2023.

100. (84) Brendon Hartley

Hartley was the fastest of the six WEC Toyota drivers in 2023 with a speed percentile of 87.82, although despite the fact that Toyota continued to dominate the HYPERCAR class as usual, they actually all trailed Ferrari driver Antonio Fuoco in speed, who had a speed percentile of 88.91. He also drove for the championship-winning team with co-drivers Sébastien Buemi and Ryō Hirakawa. However, despite the speed that he had and his title, I only rate him fifth-best of the six Toyota drivers this year just ahead of José María López and just behind the driver in position 98. Despite being the fastest driver, Hartley was one of only two Toyota drivers who did not make any passes for the lead this year and in fact he had a negative 0-2 lead change record. However, he was certainly still very good and not so far behind many of his teammates; he only barely finished 2nd in cumulative races led behind teammate Kamui Kobayashi (they both rounded to 1.09 CRL, but Kobayashi's was slightly higher) and Hartley was one of only three drivers in the HYPERCAR class to win poles this year (Kobayashi won 3 and Fuoco won 2.) He and both of the co-drivers of his car managed one fastest race each, and Hartley tied for third in lead shares as he did earn a full lead share for the race at Bahrain, where he won the pole and there were no on-track passes for the lead. Still, since most of his teammates made passes and he did not, I decided I had to dock him accordingly and I ultimately decided he was just barely worthy of a top 100 placement.

99. (C) Daniel Serra

The son of former F1 driver and three-time Stock Car Brasil champion Chico Serra, Daniel went on to win three titles in a row from 2017-19 exactly 18 years after his father did the same in 1999-2001. When the series was renamed Stock Car Pro in 2021, Serra has finished second in the championship all three years since. Probably the most consistent driver on the circuit, he has won every season since 2011 and has not finished worse than 6th in the championship in all that time. Even though he failed to win the title this time and lost the title by 12 points to Gabriel Casagrande, this was definitely one of his better seasons. He won three races in Stock Car Pro this year, his best since his first title season. Additionally, his long-time teammate Ricardo Maurício (also a three-time Stock Car Brasil champion), finished 8th in the championship with only two wins, his worst season in both the points standings and in terms of wins since 2018. Usually, Serra brings the consistency while Maurício wins more but struggles with consistency. This year, Serra was better in both categories. The main reason I rated him this low is because he did not do very well in my teammate model, ranking only 97th overall and 20th among Stock Car Pro drivers with a teammate rating of .061, although that did nose out Casagrande. I've really got to figure out why the teammate ratings seem to be so much further off from the reality in Stock Car Pro than in most other touring car series, where they seem to be fine. In addition to his Stock Car Pro starts, he also competed in a bunch of sports car races across almost every major league sports car racing series. In IMSA, he and teammate David Rigon entered the four endurance races in the GTD Pro class for Risi Competizione but failed to win. He made five WEC starts in the LMGTE Am class with Takeshi Kimura and Scott Huffaker, but again, goose-egg. Serra made three more starts in the ELMS LMGTE class with Huffaker and Kimura but no wins there either. Additionally, he ran the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup for the AF Corse team and finished 10th in points alongside Antonio Fuoco and Rigon, where he finished behind the other AF Corse car of Nicklas Nielsen, Alessio Rovera, and Robert Shwartzman. Guess how many wins? Right. Serra did do some stuff in his sports car starts: he made a pass for the lead and had a fastest lap in the WEC, he had a pole and a fastest lap in IMSA, and he had two fastest laps in the ELMS, so he certainly made his talent known there. But this is a guy who has had big sports car wins before: at the same time as his Stock Car Brasil power run, he had two Le Mans class wins and two Petit Le Mans class wins from 2017-19, so the fact that a driver as experienced and successful as him even in sports car races went winless across a lot of starts in basically every single major league sports car series is probably the other reason (besides my teammate model) that I ranked him this low. He's definitely still one of the best Brazilian millennial drivers though.

98. (24) Mike Conway

Last year, I thought Conway was the best of the WEC Toyota drivers. This year I didn't, but he was still very good. His season was sort of the flip side of Brendon Hartley's and I judged them to have basically identical seasons, although they had almost entirely opposite strengths. Although Hartley's car won the championship and Conway's car didn't, Conway's car collected four wins while Hartley's car only won two, so that to me is a wash. While Hartley was the fastest of the six Toyota drivers this year, Conway was the second-slowest with a speed percentile of 78.54 (although he was almost exactly tied with Kamui Kobayashi, the best Toyota driver of the year, who had a speed percentile of 78.55, so it's not like he was off the pace or anything.) While both Conway and Hartley had two fewer passes than passes against, Conway had the better record as he did make a couple passes for the lead and was 2-4 while Hartley was 0-2. While both Conway and Hartley had a TNL and tied with 1 full lead share apiece, Conway's came via a ninth-lap pass of Antonio Giovinazzi at Spa, which gave his team control for the rest of the race, while Hartley's was the result of a pole in Bahrain. It basically just came down to whether I preferred Hartley's speed or Conway's passing. Given my druthers, I am usually more impressed by passing. You can be a very fast driver and still underachieve your speed. You can argue there is a difference between being a great driver (e.g. the pace you have while driving by yourself) and being a great racer (e.g. one's ability to maneuver through traffic.) My site is called Racermetrics, not Drivermetrics. I prefer racers, so I value race performance much more than raw speed, and unlike a lot of people particularly in the F1 community, I don't really value qualifying performances all that much. That decides it in my mind. But basically it's a draw. Conway and Hartley had virtually identical seasons to me, and their opposing strengths almost entirely canceled each other out.

97. (C) Pierre Gasly

You thought drawing pedantically nerdy distinctions between Conway and Hartley was hard? Distinguishing between Esteban Ocon and Gasly was almost as hard. While a lot of people probably wouldn't have even included them on the top 100 to begin with, they were both just barely deserving to me. While Gasly nosed Ocon out for 11th in the F1 standings by four points, I noticed that Gasly seemed to be significantly luckier as he had only three retirements for the season while Ocon had seven. When you ignore that, Ocon beat Gasly in their teammate head-to-head by the margin of 10-5. Both of them had three crash DNFs, but Gasly also had four mechanical ones. Actually, I think that decides that but more on this in the Ocon entry.

96. (NR) Julián Santero

The most eclectic driver in Argentinean motorsports in 2023, Santero managed to finish second in both of Argentina's major league championships, Turismo Carretera (where he won two races and had his best career points finish) as well as TC2000, where he finished second in the championship for the second straight year and again won twice. Although he won four races in TC2000 last year, I am more impressed by him winning four races across both series this year than I was by him only winning races in one series last year (although I can admit in retrospect that maybe he should have been on last year's list as well, as he is becoming one of the most consistently reliable drivers in Argentina as he has now finished in the top four in the TC2000 championship five years in a row even though he has not yet won any major league titles in Argentina.) Santero did not have a teammate who is eligible for my model this year, but he does have a career rating of .238, which is certainly very strong. The main knock I have against his season is that he didn't really come close to contending for either championship, as Mariano Werner certainly blew him out in Turismo Carretera while Leonel Pernía did the same in TC2000, but obviously both of those drivers will be higher on the list.

95. (NR) Robert Kubica

I already talked about this in my Louis Delétraz entry yesterday, but although Delétraz was one of the most talked about sports car drivers of the year and was named Sportscar365's LMP2 driver of the year, I was honestly slightly more impressed by Kubica. I know Delétraz was faster in their championship-winning WEC LMP2 entry as he posted a speed percentile of 86.07 to Kubica's 78.57, but Kubica outperformed him in most other categories, leading the class in natural races led (2), TNL (2), and lead shares (1.50) while Delétraz only had 0.30 lead shares and even if you count everything Delétraz across WEC, IMSA, and ELMS he only had 0.55 lead shares. I chose Kubica over Delétraz for his passing, but Delétraz certainly wasn't bad and if you want to argue he was stronger because of how much he did across different series while Kubica specialized in only one series, I won't argue with you. But really the other reason is that I can't ignore the fact that he had that gruesome rally crash that threatened to end his career for good, yet he recovered, overcame it, and has now had what was probably his best racing season in the years since. To me, that is worth a top 100 placement.

94. (60) Esteban Ocon

I cut off the Gasly entry a bit early just so I could equally intersperse my data across both sides of the aisle. After all, wouldn't it be awkward if I put something like "q.v. Pierre Gasly" here instead? Anyway, the main reasons I chose Ocon over Gasly were the facts that he had more bad luck and their teammate head-to-head. Ocon ended up very high in my teammate model as him beating Gasly 10-5 was good enough for a .268 rating, 16th overall among open wheel drivers and 6th among F1 drivers, which is probably why I still placed him in my top 100 even though neither were especially exciting. Gasly meanwhile had a negative rating of -.020 (58th among all drivers and 16th among F1 drivers). Admittedly, Gasly did also have other merits as he also beat Ocon in speed by a margin of 50.40-44.19. To me, the gap in speed almost cancels out Ocon's gap in the head-to-head, thereby explaining this result. Additionally, even though I know I shouldn't consider performance in other series towards this, it's also hard for me to ignore that he was almost as good as Fernando Alonso at Alpine, and a lot of people think Alonso was the second-best F1 driver this year. Gasly has no teammate comparisons that are anywhere near that good, and this is one case where I did probably allow each driver's past history to color this ranking a little bit.

93. (NR) David Gravel

Joining Daniel Serra as the second driver to score his third consecutive 2nd place finish in the championship in this group of ten, Gravel has been a perennial bridesmaid in the World of Outlaws to Brad Sweet, the driver I have ranked a mere two positions higher. I've never included Gravel on my lists before, but that was probably a mistake. In the three years I've been doing these lists, they've been pretty interchangeable with Sweet winning 32 races to Gravel's 30. In each of the last two years, Gravel has won more as he won 7 races to Sweet's 5 in 2022 and 12 races to Sweet's 11 in 2023. Since they both won significantly more this year than last year, I bumped them both up to the top 100 this time. I ultimately decided in favor of Sweet because not only did he beat Gravel for the title, but he also claimed a win in the final season of the All Star Circuit of Champions, which gives him the same number of wins across both tours as Gravel, as well as winning in two of the big three divisions of winged sprint racing (which Gravel did not do.) But it was basically a coin flip. With the ASCoC folding, and Sweet defecting from WoO to compete in the High Limit Series that he co-owns with Kyle Larson, will Gravel finally claim his first top-level winged sprint championship? My invisible Magic 8 ball saith: "LIKELY."

92. (C-) Yuki Tsunoda

The little underdog of the year, Tsunoda did not seem to get the respect he deserved all season as he blasted one highly-rated teammate after another throughout the year. Tsunoda ranked 12th among open wheel drivers and 5th among F1 drivers in my model this year with a rating of .326: he even beat the likes of Jake Dennis, Ritomo Miyata, Charles Leclerc, and Josef Newgarden in my model this year (yes, all those drivers were much better.) Tsunoda was obviously inflated because he was competing against two rookies in Nyck de Vries and Liam Lawson and Daniel Ricciardo, who didn't have a ride for the first half of this season and already looked washed up prior to this. I really rated de Vries highly since he already had a F2 championship and a Formula E championship and now I guess I realize I was wrong to. At the start of the year, I had Tsunoda rated dead last among active F1 drivers with a career teammate rating of -.255, and I projected him to only beat de Vries 6.2% of the time. Well, at least it got the numbers right since Tsunoda ended up beating him by a 6-2 margin, and the gap between them in speed was staggering (32.20 to a series-worst 9.17.) Later in the season, he faced rookie wunderkind Lawson, the only teammate to beat him in their head-to-head this year at 2-1, but Tsunoda was easily faster (Lawson's speed percentile was 20.45.) I do think Lawson was marginally better because I think rookies and inexperienced drivers have a different curve, especially considering what he also did in Super Formula, but it's almost a wash between Tsunoda and Lawson for me. Finally, Tsunoda beat Ricciardo 4-2 but that teammate comparison was almost the opposite of Tsunoda and Lawson as Ricciardo was marginally faster at 38.64, so I sort of see why they kept him instead of hiring Lawson for next year. I suspect AlphaTauri expected big things from Nyck de Vries after his auspicious debut and then he busted so they're worried if they go for a less proven driver like Lawson, they'll making the same mistake twice, while Ricciardo is a proven winner. I think they made the wrong choice though. Regardless, by season's end, Tsunoda skyrocketed in my model and went up all the way from -.255 to -.063. (Admittedly, I had forgotten to include Tsunoda's 12-0 sweep of future Super Formula driver Ren Sato in 2018 towards my teammate model, and I also added that in this year, which I think also helped him considerably.) A strong case could be made that he was the most improved driver of the year in all of motorsports.

91. (C) Brad Sweet

q.v. David Gravel

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.