Racermetrics race-database.com

Top 200 Drivers of 2023 (Drivers 20 to 11)

by Sean Wrona

20. (57) Fernando Alonso

Alonso in 2023 had by most metrics his most successful Formula One season in nearly a decade. He had his first pass for the lead and fastest race since 2013, his highest CRL total since 2014, his first fastest lap since 2017, his best speed percentile since 2014, and his highest rating in my teammate model since 2018. It was an impressive bounce back for the aging champion, but it is also a season that I think a lot of people are overrating. A lot of people think Alonso was the second-best F1 driver of the year and I can see why people are arguing that. Alonso was the second highest rated driver in my teammate model with a rating of .478. Although he actually started the year as the highest-rated active driver in my model (albeit in a tie to the thousandths place with Max Verstappen), Verstappen did overtake him in 2023 both because he was the one driver to post a higher rating in my model and also because some of Verstappen's other teammates like Alex Albon rose considerably while some of Alonso's other teammates like Stoffel Vandoorne fell considerably. Nonetheless, he actually beat his expectation by beating Lance Stroll 14-2 (87.5%) while he was projected to only beat him 83.9% of the time, which is something I definitely didn't expect him to do. However, the question is whether Alonso's performance had more to do with his greatness or Stroll having a particularly lousy year. Since I left Stroll off my list of 200 entirely, you can see which way I lean on this. Although I try to rate drivers only on their performances in the stated year, it's hard to ignore recent years to provide context in certain situations. With Alonso now in his 40s and coming off a series of years where he failed to qualify at the Indy 500, got utterly dominated by Pato O'Ward all month in his final Indy start, and then barely outperformed Esteban Ocon back-to-back years in 2021 and 2022, it's hard for me to believe that Alonso is suddenly one of the best drivers in the world again. I think a major reason why people are hyping Alonso's 2023 is because he did indeed blow out Stroll (including beating him in points 206-74) while Sebastian Vettel, the multiple-time champion Alonso replaced at Aston Martin barely outperformed him. However, there is one big difference here as Vettel had an inexplicable collapse in his last year at Ferrari with a speed percentile decline from 87.38 to 37.08 from 2019 to 2020, while his teammate Charles Leclerc's decline from 86.46 to 57.02 was much smaller. Vettel was already washed up by the time he got to Aston Martin while Alonso wasn't. Does being significantly better than late-career Vettel after he had already been 20 percentage points slower than Leclerc prior to that really mean Alonso is still one of the best drivers in the world? I'm not sure that it does, but I do think his season is still worth being called elite albeit only barely.

19. (C-) Brodie Kostecki

Okay, I give up. After publicly declaring Kostecki the most overrated driver in the world on a podcast early in 2023 because I noticed that he and his Erebus Motorsport teammate Will Brown both started dominating out of nowhere despite both of them having extremely weak teammate head-to-heads against all drivers other than each other in their previous seasons, which resulted in them alone among current Supercars stars having below average ratings in my touring car model, Kostecki wore me down and I will admit he did have a truly exceptional season in Supercars last year. As I previously mentioned in the entry for Brown, this reminds me very much of when Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser suddenly started dominating when Chip Ganassi's CART team had their sudden breakout in 1996 when they hit upon the best chassis/engine/tire combination before any of the other top-tier teams could catch up. While Zanardi and Vasser showed nothing resembling greatness at any point when they did not have such a dominant setup, I can't deny Zanardi's greatness within the context of the three years he drove for Ganassi (even though he was never great at any point before or after.) Kostecki clearly has emerged in the Zanardi role in this comparison while Brown is the Vasser. Even though Brown was by far the lowest-rated driver in any of my models in 2023 to make my list, Kostecki actually ended up clobbering him in their teammate head-to-head 20-6, which was enough for Kostecki to rank 71st overall and 7th in Supercars with a rating of .131, which is quite solid when you consider that clearly both drivers are significantly better than their current overall ratings. I think to some extent this may be an issue of sample size, not so much in terms of number of teammate comparisons but number of teammates at the major-league level. Both Kostecki and Brown have now been in Supercars for three years and they have only been teammates with each other as major league drivers; before that, they had underachieving minor league careers but they were admittedly quite young and younger than some of the teammates who dominated them, which may not indicate a lot. With Brown leaving the Erebus team to replace Shane van Gisbergen at Triple Eight Race Engineering and being replaced by Jack Le Brocq, that will hopefully clear a lot of this up. Since Le Brocq is much higher rated than Brown in my model despite being almost certainly a worse driver, that should mean Kostecki will likely to continue to skyrocket in my model, which will help both him and Brown to have more accurate-looking ratings in future years (although I do think Broc Feeney will beat Brown pretty badly at Triple Eight.) At least much like Ritomo Miyata, I did have him in my top 200 list the year before, which turned out to be prescient. Aside from the teammate comparisons, Kostecki's season was pretty unimpeachable: 11 natural races led (no one else had more than 6), 6 wins, 9 TNL, 8.64 lead shares, 9 races with the most lead shares, 6.52 CRL, 7 races with the most laps led, 10 poles, and 5 fastest races. He led all these categories singlehandedly except for fastest races, where he and van Gisbergen were tied. The only categories I track that Kostecki did not lead last season were lead change record, fastest laps, and surprisingly speed percentile. Van Gisbergen beat Kostecki in speed percentile by a pretty wide margin actually: 85.59-77.37. However, this is admittedly rather misleading. Kostecki had two races where he was the slowest driver and one more with a single-race speed percentile below 10, while van Gisbergen was more consistent with a slowest race of about 65. If you calculate speed percentile by taking the median instead of the mean, Kostecki was faster with a speed percentile of 90.65 to van Gisbergen's 87.50. In the wake of van Gisbergen's surprise win on his NASCAR Cup Series debut at the Chicago street course, it should come as no surprise that other NASCAR teams would start looking at other Supercars drivers for road course starts, and Kostecki especially made sense since he had some minor-league NASCAR experience. However, even though SVG claimed "any of the top 10 in Supercars are good enough to come and do what I just did", I never bought that and Kostecki proved that at the Indy road course where he only finished 22nd in the race, the last car on the lead lap. However, it's worth noting in his Cup start he did set the 3rd and 5th fastest laps of the race and ranked 15th in speed, so I'm not saying he doesn't have potential if he follows van Gisbergen to NASCAR, but I do think Shane was still better last year.

18. (C) William Byron

On paper, Byron was the best NASCAR Cup Series driver of the year, but if you dig a little deeper, there are several aspects to Byron's season that feel a little hollow. It's easy to see why a lot of people defaulted to saying Byron had the best season last year. He scored the most points over the entire 36-race schedule whether you use the current system or the Bob Latford-era Winston Cup system. For those who prefer to look at dominance instead of consistency, Byron had the most wins (6), TNL (5), lead shares (4.04), CRL (4.17), races with the most laps led (5, tied with his teammate Kyle Larson) and the highest speed percentile (79.80, narrowly beating Larson's 79.00). Larson did beat Byron in laps led (1127-1016) but CRL is more accurate anyway as it equalizes all races rather than rewarding races with a larger number of laps more. He ranked third in my stock car teammate model at .207, only barely behind Chris Buescher and barely ahead of Larson. So why did I end up rating Byron as only the third-highest NASCAR driver behind both Larson and Ryan Blaney? Part of it certainly comes down to the fact that Blaney won the championship race while Larson had some significant sprint car accomplishments including winning the High Limit title while Byron won no championships in 2023, but there's a lot more to it than that. The two main factors are 1) Byron was substantially luckier than Larson and Blaney for the entire season; 2) Larson and Blaney were both better than Byron at all measures of passing. Let's start with the passing. Blaney had a lead change record of 35-23 in 2023. In arguably his best-ever performance in the Coca-Cola 600, Blaney posted a remarkable 7-2 lead change record including a 5-0 record against Byron specifically (Byron kept beating Blaney out of the pits before Blaney kept re-passing him on track). After that race, Blaney led the Cup Series in lead change percentage for almost the entire season until Buescher overtook him in that metric in the final race despite Penske having its slowest cars overall since he started there while Hendrick was arguably the fastest team. Neither Larson nor Byron's lead change records were great, but Byron's was worse with Larson having a 24-26 record and Byron a 25-30 record. Furthermore, Ryan McCafferty calculates the passing percentages for all drivers in each race, and in the 2023 season, Larson had an overall passing percentage of 52.97% to Blaney's 51.36% and Byron's 50.32%. You may think these differences sound small, but considering even the worst passer J.J. Yeley sat at 47.27%, this is actually a fairly substantial difference; Byron only ranked 16th in passing percentage by Ryan's metric while Larson was 1st and Blaney was 7th. So Byron must have led in wins and TNL and all those statistics because he was the most clutch driver, right? Not really. If you look only at passes on the final lead change of the race, Byron again had the worst percentage as Blaney had a 4-0 record on the last lead change of the race while Larson's was 3-2 and Byron's was 5-6. What really stands out to me about Byron is that last number. He was involved in the final lead change of the race 11 times but only made 5 passes for the win. No other driver had nearly as many opportunities to be up front at the end than Byron did. The two drivers who next most frequently participated in the final lead change of the race were Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, who each had 2-4 records, meaning that they appeared in the final lead change of the race 6 times. That's right: Byron ended up being involved in the final lead change of the race nearly twice as often as any other driver, and that's why he ended up leading so many statistics despite not being as strong a passer as a number of other drivers. For him to have that many "pass encounters" as David Smith would call them at the end of the race and only barely win the most races is actually worthy of criticism. That thereby ties in to Byron's luck. If you look at Ryan's chart, he also has a method of calculating each driver's luck. According to his metric, Byron was the fourth-luckiest playoff driver of 2023 behind only Buescher, Kevin Harvick, and Ricky Stenhouse, and that really checks out. If you think back to a lot of Byron's wins in 2023, there really was a deus ex machina element to many of them albeit not to the same extent as Buescher's. In both his Las Vegas and Phoenix wins, Byron dominated early before fading towards the back of the top five and retaking the lead on overtime restarts. At Darlington, he had one of the lamest TNLs of all time as he inherited the lead after being an essential nonfactor all day after Martin Truex, Jr., Ross Chastain, and Larson all crashed out; although Byron inherited the lead, Harvick beat him to the line on the restart, which meant the way I determine lead changes, Byron's re-pass did technically count as the final lead change of the race. At Atlanta, the Fords were consistently faster and Byron never led until he and several others stayed out of the pits before he won; that was entirely strategy. At Texas, he never led all day before passing Bubba Wallace on the final restart. What all these races have in common is that he needed some good fortune (usually a well-timed caution or strategy) to win all of them and he rarely blitzed the field. Plenty of fans still don't realize that what we call driver's championships should really be regarded as team championships. Byron appeared to be the best driver in 2023 because the #24 car was the best team and Rudy Fugle was the best crew chief of the year, but Byron, who was still only 25 at the end of the 2023 season, still hasn't quite developed to the level of a longer-term veteran like Kyle Larson and needed a lot of luck and a lot more opportunities to lead at the end to barely look better than Larson and Blaney. Both of them were better than him.

17. (64) Kamui Kobayashi

Although most sports car analysts rated Antonio Fuoco as the best WEC Hypercar driver of the season mainly because of the speed he had for a Ferrari team that genuinely didn't relative to the Toyotas, I still think Kobayashi had the best WEC season overall in 2023. Even though Kobayashi's speed percentile of 78.55 was substantially behind Fuoco's 88.91, he failed to win the title, and he failed to win at Le Mans, Kobayashi still led or at least tied for the lead in the Hypercar class in every other category I track, with 2 wins, a 2-0 lead change record, 4 wins, 2 TNL, 1.67 lead share, 2 races with the most lead shares, 1.09 CRL, 1 race with the most laps led, 3 poles, 4 fastest laps, and 2 fastest races. Yes, Fuoco beat him in speed even though he had a faster car, but when Kobayashi beat Fuoco in every other category and crushed him in most of them in addition to beating or at least tying all other drivers in the Hypercar class across all other categories, the idea that Fuoco had the best Hypercar season of any driver was pretty untenable. Sure, you can criticize Kobayashi for neither winning the WEC title or winning at Le Mans despite having the fastest cars, which was probably enough to leave him out of the top ten, but I could likewise criticize Fuoco for hardly leading any races despite the speed he had and winning two poles in a year when the Ferrari he did not drive won at Le Mans while Fuoco's teammates Alessandro Pier Guidi and Antonio Giovinazzi both made passes in 2023 while Fuoco did not. It's close between them since it is really impressive and clearly an elite performance that Fuoco managed to be the fastest Ferrari driver in speed when all the other Ferrari drivers were slower than all the Toyota drivers, but I just can't rank him over Kobayashi when Kobayashi was the top performer in almost every other category. Kobayashi also had a pretty solid year in Super Formula, beating his teammate Yuji Kunimoto with 17.5 points to 7 and beating him 6-2 in shared finishes, which gave him a teammate rating of .137, 35th among open wheel drivers and 6th among Super Formula drivers; he was only barely behind the likes of Tomoki Nojiri, Kyle Kirkwood, and Christian Lundgaard in my model (and well ahead of the more-hyped Super Formula driver Liam Lawson) so that clearly helped his season rating a little, but it's mainly because I do think Kobayashi was the best WEC driver of the year. I don't think he was the best sports car driver of the year though.

16. (2) Shane van Gisbergen

Although he failed to win his fourth Supercars championship and third in a row in his final Supercars season before switching to the NASCAR Xfinity Series for 2024, I still think he was the best driver in Oceania last year and narrowly rated him over the champion Brodie Kostecki. The main reason for that of course is van Gisbergen's historic accomplishment in winning on his NASCAR Cup Series debut at the Chicago Street Course. In doing so, he became the first driver to win their first Cup race since future CART champion/three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford won a twin 125 qualifying race at Daytona in 1963 in the pre-modern era when the Daytona qualifying races counted for points. To be fair, many things had to go his way to make that possible. First of all, the NASCAR Cup Series's Next Gen chassis is based on previous Supercars design, which made the transition easier than it used to be (something akin to switching from an IBM PC to an IBM-compatible PC, to date myself utterly and thoroughly.) Second, none of the NASCAR veterans had ever competed on a street course before while he had and since the track was a new venue to everyone, the established stock car drivers and teams couldn't build experience there. Third, it rained all weekend which meant raw road course talent was even more important since it became substantially easier for the stock car drivers with less experience on road courses to make mistakes. That was an improbable set of circumstances that won't likely be repeated anytime soon so the odds of any other drivers winning on their Cup debut remain bloody unlikely, but it was a major, major feather in his cap and is the main reason why I rated SVG over Kostecki this time since it was one of the defining moments of the international motorsports season, while Kostecki's NASCAR crossover at Indianapolis was more mediocre. Because I knew he had a history of being substantially faster in the race than in qualifying in Supercars events, once he qualified third, I correctly predicted his win. (Unfortunately, I don't have the receipts because shortly thereafter the Discord where I posted that was deleted.) But he certainly still has a major learning curve in NASCAR events nonetheless. Once he made his first start in a normal NASCAR race at Indianapolis, he did not have those same advantages because the veteran Cup drivers and teams had already competed there while he had not and it wasn't a rain race so he lost that advantage. He was still very good, ranking in the top ten in speed and earning a top ten finish but that proved that he wouldn't instantly dominate everything and that the other Cup drivers can certainly still compete with him, and he ended up getting lapped on his truck debut at Indianapolis Raceway Park that same weekend, so I think learning ovals may be a little rougher for him than I was expecting, particularly for a team like Kaulig Racing that doesn't seem to have much speed except on road courses and drafting tracks lately. I do kind of wonder why he's choosing to race in Xfinity first rather than simply switching to Cup immediately. For one thing, he is already in his mid-30s and may not have all that many seasons left. Second, the Xfinity chassis are very dissimilar from NASCAR's NextGen chassis and the Supercars chassis are probably more similar to the Cup chassis, so he can probably adapt more quickly to Cup than Xfinity. Third, the odds of him winning his way into the Cup Series playoffs with as many road courses as there are seem quite solid and you'd think a lot of teams would find that appealing to collect more revenue from the NASCAR points fund. Nonetheless, even though I question how much Xfinity oval experience helps you in Cup these days as rookies are seeming to have slower development curves in the Cup Series than they used to, that's what he's doing and maybe he will end up better in the long run if he gets that minor league oval experience first. As for his Supercars starts, they aren't really the story here although he was quite solid there as well. It would have been almost impossible for anyone to repeat a 21-win season and he "only" won five times in 2023. However, he still won his third Bathurst 1000 in four seasons (a race that Marcos Ambrose never won before he defected to NASCAR) and led a number of statistical categories. While Kostecki led almost all categories in Supercars last year, van Gisbergen led several in his own right including lead change record (6-3, tied with Cameron Waters's 2-1), fastest laps (3, tied with Broc Feeney, Waters, and Chaz Mostert), fastest races (5, tied with Kostecki), and lead change percentile (85.59.) I think if you factor out the difference between Erebus Motorsport and Triple Eight Race Engineering's cars that van Gisbergen was still probably better than Kostecki even in their Supercars starts. He ranked 48th among all drivers and 4th among Supercars drivers in my teammate model at .189, while Kostecki ranked 71st and 7th at .131, even though Kostecki beat Will Brown by a substantially larger margin than van Gisbergen beat Feeney. But really, the main thing swinging this in SVG's favor is the NASCAR Cup win, and really, why shouldn't it? You could easily argue it was the drive of the year anywhere.

15. (41) Ryan Blaney

Blaney's NASCAR Cup Series championship has garnered a hell of a lot of criticism on antisocial media, primarily because of his lack of consistency. It is true that compared to most other Cup champions, 8 top fives, 18 top tens, 562 laps led, and an average finish of 14.1 are pretty paltry - even Blaney himself has surpassed all those numbers in previous seasons. The question you should be asking yourself though: Does any of that actually mean anything? My answer: No, it doesn't. Look, I'm anti-playoffs and would prefer a full-season system that properly weights top finishes too, but it's been 20 years now and it's obvious that teams and drivers will respond to incentives and give differential weights to different races to maximize the potential of winning a championship, especially considering how much money is at stake. Roger Penske is the biggest money man in the biz as well as usually regarded as one of the most strategic car owners. It seems obvious to me that Penske has decided to place disproportionate weight on the finale at Phoenix to win championships at the expense of consistency elsewhere and he's particularly ignoring non-playoff tracks, particularly non-playoff tracks that do not have similar car setups to Phoenix. The people attempting to argue that Blaney has had some kind of inferior performance still think championships should be decided on consistency when the Latford system wasn't much more or less accurate at identifying the best driver than the knockout playoffs have been (and while I would prefer no playoffs at all, I actually prefer the knockout playoffs to the ten-race consistency chase, which struck me as combining the worst of both worlds.) The only real argument that Blaney didn't have one of the best NASCAR seasons last year is that you want NASCAR to evaluate its champions differently, which is fair. But NASCAR evaluates its champions the ways it does and obviously the teams will respond to that in kind. Blaney actually had a pretty exceptional season but you have to dig deep in the numbers to realize that. First off, the Penske cars were slooooooow in 2023 (in both NASCAR and IndyCar really, but much more in NASCAR.) Blaney's speed percentile in 2023 was 63.74, by far his slowest as a Penske driver (his previous worst was 72.54 in 2019), and it was his worst speed percentile overall since 2016, when he had a speed percentile of 62.92 while a rookie for the Wood Brothers. Surely a top-tier driver in the prime of his career should be way faster than that same driver as a rookie, right? Something was up with all the Penske cars, and it wasn't just Blaney. Unlike in IndyCar when Josef Newgarden had an inexplicable sudden speed decline but Will Power and Scott McLaughlin really didn't, all three Penske Cup drivers were significantly slower in 2023. Joey Logano's speed percentile of 59.42 was also his worst as a Penske driver by a large margin (his previous worst was 68.87 in 2017, the year he failed to meka the playoffs) and Austin Cindric had a sudden decline from 50.39 to 38.00 as well. This was clearly a team-wide issue that affected the entire operation; even Harrison Burton's Penske-adjacent Wood Brothers car fell from 31.43 to 22.89 in speed percentile. Yet despite Blaney having what were almost certainly the slowest cars of his entire career, he still had one of his best seasons ever in a lot of metrics. His 35-23 lead change record was the best of his career; his 3 wins (tied with 2021), 4 TNL, 3.01 lead shares, and 4 races with the most lead shares are all career bests, and despite the speed downturn, he amazingly had four fastest races after having none in either 2021 and 2022 (and even William Byron had only three fastest races in 2023 despite being the series leader in speed.) That was his second-best season in the fastest races category, behind only 2020, when he had five. But the big difference is in 2020 he was one of the fastest drivers with a speed percentile of 80.41 and last year he had almost as many fastest races even though his speed percentile was almost 17 percentage points lower! Blaney did not merely have the slowest car to win the championship, he even had the slowest car to ever advance to the Championship 4! Yes, even his fellow Ryan in 2014 was faster with Ryan Newman posting a speed percentile of 67.54 that year. Although it's hard to think of Penske as any kind of underdog, this is honestly one of the biggest underdog NASCAR seasons of my lifetime in terms of punching above one's weight in terms of equipment. Despite only ranking 11th in speed (behind even for instance rookie Ty Gibbs), Blaney ranked in the top five in almost every statistical category I track: 3rd in natural races led (12), 2nd in lead change percentage (35-23), tied for 3rd in wins (3), tied for 2nd in TNL (4), 3rd in lead shares (3.01), 8th in CRL (1.85), tied for 6th in races with the most laps led (2), tied for 5th in fastest laps (2), and tied for 2nd in fastest races (4). In every single one of those categories, he outperformed his rank in speed and he also beat his defending champion Joey Logano pretty substantially in almost all categories too. Logano throughout his career has seemed to struggle whenever he didn't have the fastest cars which is why he had maybe his most invisible Penske season ever, but Blaney proved he could thrive despite greater adversity. He also was unbelievably clutch as he tied Tyler Reddick with the best record on the final lead change of the race at 4-0, including passing Kevin Harvick's illegal car to win at Talladega and locking himself into the championship race with a dominant win at Martinsville, but I am still most impressed by his Coca-Cola 600 where he kept losing the lead in the pits and passing William Byron repeatedly. Blaney's success finally proves something else to me. He is the Cup driver more than any other in recent years who I have failed to understand. Every year it felt like he was going to break out (much like Charles Leclerc now) and it never completely happened. The races where he tended to have his best performances he ended up usually losing, while the races he won often had some deus ex machina element (most famously when he inherited the lead at the 2018 Charlotte roval after Jimmie Johnson took himself and Martin Truex, Jr. out.) It didn't help that Blaney was rated as only a barely above average driver in my teammate model because it underrated all the recent Penske drivers for whatever reason (because of my stock car model's perpetual anti-Penske bias, he still only ranked 11th for last year.) When I saw Blaney rating so highly in other people's models in 2022 and I failed to understand it, I was even asking, "What makes Blaney good?" because he didn't feel that good to me. Now I finally get it. He finally wowed me in 2023, and people are still giving him grief for not being as consistent or dominant as other champions, even though it was impossible for that to happen as slow as his cars were. Take a closer look before you say his championship was undeserving. It's the reverse of Byron: while the #24 was better than Byron was, the #12 was way worse than Blaney was. But there is one Cup driver I rated higher.

14. (NR) Ricardo Feller

For he's a jolly good feller. Sorry. Feller is the highest-ranked driver I've never listed before although I considered him in 2021 before rejecting him at the last minute for his fellow ADAC GT championship-winning co-driver Christopher Mies. In 2022, he wasn't really in the conversation as he had a mediocre season then. Not so last year. Feller competed simultaneously in the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup, where he and his teammate Mattia Drudi won the championship and four out of ten races, beating Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy by 19 points. When you consider that Marciello made my top 25 as well, it's clear that Feller was of roughly the same caliber. Admittedly, Boguslavskiy, Marciello, and their third teammate Jules Gounon won the other major Stéphane Ratel Organisation championship by winning the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup and two of its five races, while Feller, Drudi, and their third teammate Dennis Marschall only won once and finished third in points. If you count just the GT World Challenge events, I would have to put Marciello on top. However, if you also count Feller's DTM results, that is what really elevates Feller's season to me and moves him into the elite tier as one of the best sports car drivers of the year. Feller finished 3rd in the DTM championship with a win at Zandvoort while his teammate Kelvin van der Linde only finished 8th and Feller beat him 179-119 and 10-4 in shared races. When you consider that van der Linde was one of the main championship combatants in 2021 and Feller beat him about as badly as 2023 as René Rast (one of the all-time highest rated drivers in my touring car model) had done the year before, that is an extremely impressive performance for Feller. He ended up being rated 3rd overall and 2nd among DTM drivers with a rating of .525 in my touring car model, which when combined with his GT Europe championship easily makes him one of the best sports car drivers of the year. The DTM performance also allows me to distinguish between Feler and his co-champion teammate Drudi, who also competed in DTM but was nowhere near as successful. While Feller finished 3rd in the championship, Drudi was a mere 26th and he was actually beaten by his teammate Patric Niederhauser in points 23-13. Obviously Drudi had a greatly inferior car to Feller but he also had weaker performance; he did beat Niederhauser in their head-to-head 4-2, but that was only good for a rating of .206, 42nd overall and 11th among DTM drivers. Feller was clearly the team leader. Maybe he was really the breakout driver of the year, not Liam Lawson.

13. (18) Jake Dennis

Well, I successfully called Dennis's Formula E championship in my entry on him last year. Admittedly, that wasn't too hard since he had already won the 2023 Formula E season opener at Mexico City, he was making the most remarkable ascent, and he was one of the drivers I was hyping the most in 2022 after he swept his teammate Oliver Askew, who came a lot closer to matching Pato O'Ward in IndyCar than he ever came to Dennis in IndyCar. But it was not a guarantee as the points lead swapped several times in 2023 with Pascal Wehrlein and Nick Cassidy taking turns as the championship leader as well. Dennis had even lost the points lead after the third race with finishes of 1-2-2 because Wehrlein's finishes at that point were 2-1-1. Dennis then went into a slump with four finishes out of the points with a best finish of 13th, which dropped him to 5th in the championship but he quietly clawed his way back more through consistency than raw pace as both Cassidy and Mitch Evans were a lot more dominant. However, if you exclude that aforementioned four-race stretch, Dennis's worst finish in the entire season was fourth, and all but one of those races were podiums. Despite only winning two races while Cassidy and Evans won four, Dennis really blitzed them in terms of consistency with a staggering seven second-place finishes. It's like Kevin Harvick 2015 without the dominance. Dennis arguably outperformed his teammate André Lotterer by a larger margin than Mitch Evans beat Sam Bird or Nick Cassidy beat Sébastien Buemi. While all three of their teammates were once-great open wheelers now fading into mediocrity (except that Buemi continues to perform very well in sports cars), at least Buemi and Bird got top ten points finishes despite not winning while Evans and Cassidy each won four times. Lotterer finished only 18th in the championship, worse than even Askew did (although admittedly he missed a couple races, Lotterer is a legend while Askew is a driver who once had potential that was likely squelched after his concussion in the 2020 Indy 500.) Dennis also beat Lotterer in speed substantially worse with a speed percentile of 72.96 to Lotterer's 53.99, while Evans beat Bird and Cassidy beat Buemi by only about 12 percentage points each. Dennis was 5th in my teammate model among Formula E drivers and 13th overall with a rating of .318, but I think that definitely underrates him since I think he was unlucky to lose to Lotterer in all three races where he finished the race and finished poorly. The knock against Dennis's season is his relative lack of passing as his lead change record of 2-3 was worse than Cassidy's 6-6 (but his teammate rating was much better than Cassidy's to compensate) and a lot worse than Evans's 9-3. He was still relatively close to Evans and Cassidy in most other metrics, usually ranking 3rd or 4th behind only them except that he did lead two categories with two poles, five fastest laps, and five fastest races, by far the most of any driver. Cassidy by contrast despite having the overall fastest speed had one pole, zero fastest laps, and one fastest race. I think that's why I ended up taking Dennis because even though Cassidy had more consistent speed, Dennis had more top-level speed. Dennis is still Andretti's best driver although you can certainly make a case for Chaz Mostert, and both of them are way better than any of the Andretti IndyCar drivers. Dennis has been a development driver for Red Bull since 2018 and he participated in his first F1 practice session for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2023. I don't think there's any chance Red Bull hires him to replace Sergio Pérez (although I do think he's better), but when the Andretti team finally debuts in F1 (which looks like it's likely happen), I hope Andretti does the right thing and chooses Dennis over Colton Herta and isn't scared off by past Formula E champion Nyck de Vries's failure in F1. Granted, since I can't really imagine Herta getting the Super Licence points he needs in time, Andretti might not have a choice.

12. (20) Lewis Hamilton

Although Hamilton failed to win a race in Formula One for the second consecutive season after winning in each of his first fifteen seasons, I still think he was pretty easily the second-best F1 driver in 2023. That's right: I only included one F1 driver in my top ten, but I think that makes sense. In a year when Max Verstappen broke records in almost every single statistical category and almost no one else was even contending for wins for the most part, that should be reflected in this list and the second, third, and fourth-highest F1 drivers and so on should be substantially lower-rated than I would place them in most seasons to reflect the gap between Max and the rest of the field. I think a lot of drivers were better than the second-best F1 driver last year, but Hamilton was still great. After a 2022 season when it looked like George Russell might be starting to overtake Hamilton for leadership of the Mercedes team, Hamilton said none of that in 2023 and dominated him by a pretty substantial margin, finishing 3rd in the championship and best in class behind only the two dominant Red Bulls while Russell was 8th; the 234-175 gap in points was probably larger than a lot of people expected after 2022 when Russell beat Hamilton in points. Hamilton proved much like his first teammate Fernando Alonso that he was by no means washed up, but I also don't think this was one of his best seasons either. Even though Hamilton failed to make a pass for the lead for the second consecutive year while Russell did have a pass for the lead, they weren't even close: Hamilton had a speed percentile of 77.57 to Russell's 65.21, which was almost as large as Verstappen's gap in speed over Sergio Pérez and only barely smaller than the gap between Lando Norris and rookie Oscar Piastri, yet a lot of people erroneously think Norris was better than Hamilton. Hamilton's 11-5 defeat of Russell was enough to make him the 5th-highest rated open wheel driver of the year and 3rd in F1 behind only Verstappen and Alonso, but I think much more of Hamilton's season than Alonso's because I think Russell is still clearly in his prime period while Alonso's teammate Lance Stroll had seemingly stopped giving a shit and was truly awful while Russell was at least okay. In addition to being best in class as the best non-Red Bull points finisher, Hamilton ranked 4th in speed only behind the two Red Bull drivers and (barely) behind Charles Leclerc at 78.91. Furthermore, in a year when the Red Bull cars and to a lesser degree the Ferraris dominated qualifying, Hamilton was the only driver to win a pole outside of those teams. His four fastest laps rank second to Verstappen despite the speed deficit he had, and he was also one of only three drivers along with Alonso and Norris to set a fastest race outside of the Red Bull team. He was the only non-Red Bull driver to have a pole, a fastest lap, and a fastest race. Even though he didn't really contend for any wins and there really isn't any race he should have won, he was definitely the most consistent driver outside of the Red Bull drivers across all statistical categories and I thought he was the best choice for the #2 F1 driver in 2023. However, in a year when for the most part only Max was winning, I couldn't justify listing him in my top ten.

11. (22) Pato O'Ward

I left O'Ward out of my top ten because he failed to win, but he had a very similar season to Hamilton in terms of his performance and I actually like his performance better. No, seriously! For the second year in a row, O'Ward was the highest-rated IndyCar driver in my open wheel model and he ranked 3rd behind only Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso with a rating of .446 despite not winning. Additionally, although I have not posted the results of the latest update of my model yet, he did overtake Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon for the highest career rating among active IndyCar drivers in my teammate model as well. (Okay, technically he's behind Tom Blomqvist who is absurdly overrated by way of some dominant minor league seasons a decade ago, but after Felix Rosenqvist destroys him in 2024, that will lower Blomqvist considerably while O'Ward will benefit since he and Rosenqvist were teammates.) Like Hamilton, O'Ward was bringing a knife to a gunfight although it isn't quite as obvious since IndyCar on the surface has more parity than F1. But honestly, it was almost as boring as Ganassi was pretty much guaranteed to win every road course race while Penske was pretty much guaranteed to win every oval race with few exceptions and it didn't seem like the McLaren cars could compete except on ovals, and even then it was mostly just O'Ward. Alexander Rossi joined the McLaren team for 2023 and had a big wet fart of a season. O'Ward was sweeping Rossi in their teammate head-to-head all year until Rossi finally beat him in the season finale at Laguna Seca to cut the deficit to 13-1, and even that should not have happened because O'Ward's team committed a Ferrari-esque strategic oopsie to cost him a race he probably should have won otherwise. I can't think of a race Rossi outran O'Ward all season and he was honestly lucky to finish as high as 9th in the points. Rosenqvist knew he stood a good chance of being fired so he elevated his game and was a lot faster. In addition to winning two poles, Rosenqvist and O'Ward kept trading the lead with each other for most of the race before both crashed; he impressed me more and I briefly considered him for the top 200, but nah. O'Ward finished 4th in the championship to Rossi's 9th and Rosenqvist's 12th and he beat them both by over 100 points despite atrocious luck throughout the season. O'Ward seemed to keep losing races because a cartoon anvil kept falling on him all year. While leading the season-opener at St. Pete, an engine misfire slowed him for a few seconds, which handed Marcus Ericsson another deus ex machina win. Josef Newgarden beat O'Ward straight up in the best race of the year at Texas, but O'Ward definitely looked faster (it figures after Texas had its best race in arguably decades that it would immediately fall off the IndyCar schedule.) Then came the crash at Indy, a Gateway race where he outran everyone but lost to Scott Dixon on fuel mileage, and a Laguna Seca race where they chose to put on the primary tires thinking everyone would have to pit again, thereby costing O'Ward the lead when he had to switch to the alternates. If you change a few things here or there, it's easy to imagine him with a three or four win season, and people would probably look at it very differently. But even with all the bad luck he had, he beat Rossi 13-1 (and should have swept him; let's not forget that Rossi was considered one of the leading championship contenders not long ago) and Rosenqvist 8-3, which was enough to outrank all drivers in my model in 2023 except Verstappen and Alonso, even Álex Palou. Despite the fact that Palou dominated the road courses and Newgarden dominated the ovals, O'Ward's speed definitely rivaled both. Even though Newgarden won four of the five oval races and O'Ward won none of them, O'Ward actually had the best speed percentile on ovals last season at 92.35 to Newgarden's 91.80, and it does make sense. He was faster at Texas and Indy and just as fast as Gateway even though Newgarden as usual was faster at Iowa. Over the entire season, O'Ward was barely slower than Palou (83.45-82.86) and until Palou was the fastest driver in the last two races at Portland and Laguna Seca, O'Ward was actually the fastest IndyCar driver of the year. His leading data isn't as stellar as he only ranked 8th in lead shares at 0.59 and 6th in CRL at 1.03. He still beat his teammates of course, but since he did rival Palou in speed, I'd expect a little more. His only passes for the lead came on ovals in 2023, which was his main issue, and since Texas and Indy had so many lead changes, that meant each lead change was much less valuable in terms of my lead shares statistic than road course passes were. However, O'Ward had essentially as many passes for the lead as anyone: O'Ward's lead change record was 13-13 vs. Palou's 14-13 and Josef Newgarden's 13-8. His passing was very similar to Palou's overall: it's just that Palou was doing more on road courses and those passes ended up being more valuable because it's harder to make passes on road courses. I wanted to rank O'Ward over Palou. I really wanted to, but in the end, I couldn't really justify it. At some point what actually happened should trump what theoretically could have happened, but if you asked me whether O'Ward or Palou was better, I would probably say O'Ward because at least he is good on both road courses and ovals while Palou is for the most part good on road courses only. I'm pretty sure O'Ward is going to win a title at some point. I couldn't tell you what year that will happen but it wouldn't surprise me at any point. It seems likely that McLaren replacing Felix Rosenqvist with David Malukas and also entering Kyle Larson at Indy will only help them more with Malukas showing Newgarden-esque potential to become a future Short Oval King and Larson being the best oval driver in the world right now. With those two drivers, I foresee McLaren overtaking Penske as the top oval team very soon and O'Ward should be the main beneficiary, and if he has any luck on road courses at all, watch out!

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.