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Top 200 Drivers of 2023 (Drivers 30 to 21)

by Sean Wrona

30. (86) Sébastien Ogier

Ogier continued to drive part-time in the World Rally Championship. Despite starting only eight of thirteen rallies, he still tied for the most rally wins with three including the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, which gave him his ninth win in the most prestigious rally, breaking the tie he had with the other Sébastien (Loeb.) Even though Ogier had the best winning percentage in the WRC in 2023, I think I still have to take his Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT teammate and back-to-back champion Kalle Rovanperä over him simply because I think full-time seasons should in general be rewarded over part-time seasons unless the part-time seasons genuinely are better than anything the full time drivers managed (an example of this was Maro Engel in IMSA GTD Pro last year.) Additionally, Ogier's average points per race if extrapolated over the entire season would have given him 216.125, essentially tied with Elfyn Evans's 216 points (and I ranked him 45th) and far behind Rovanperä's 250 points. While Ogier has dabbled in racing in other series such as WEC, DTM, and Porsche Supercup occasionally, he has never been as eclectic as Loeb has and he didn't make any starts outside of the WRC in 2023 so I can't rate him much higher than this although I suspect if he ever does run the entire WRC schedule again, I still think he'd beat Rovanperä for the championship.

29. (C-) Yann Ehrlacher

The nephew of touring car legend Yvan Muller (who won the 2003 British Touring Car championship and four World Touring Car Championships after that), Ehrlacher at age 27 sits potentially poised to overtake Muller and become the best international touring car driver of his generation. Having already won the renamed World Touring Car Cup in 2020 and 2021, he sat out the second half of 2022 after his Cyan Racing team abruptly shut down midseason, but they returned to action in 2023 and Ehrlacher finished second in the again-renamed TCR World Tour, a mere ten points behind the champion Norbert Michelisz; both drivers tied with three wins each. You can make the case that Ehrlacher beat his teammates worse than Michelisz did as well, as Michelisz's teammate Mikel Azcona finished 5th in points, while Ehrlacher's three teammates Thed Björk, Santiago Urrutia, and Ma Qing Hua, finished 7th-9th in points and were the three lowest-finishing drivers in points who started every race (having said that, I do think Azcona is a lot better than those three as well.) Michelisz rated higher in my teammate model so I have rated him higher here as well, but Ehrlacher was exceptional as well, ranking 14th among all touring car drivers and 2nd in the TCR World Tour. You could make a strong case he had an elite season, but I narrowly left him out of my top 25 for a couple of reasons. For one, Ehrlacher was actually slightly faster with a speed percentile of 79.83 to Michelisz's 79.24 yet he lost the title. Additionally, Michelisz dominated Azcona in nearly all categories while one of Ehrlacher's teammates (Urrutia) tied him in natural races led, wins, TNL, and lead shares (3 of each) and actually beat him in CRL (3.64 to 3) despite being a lot slower and less consistent. I also docked most of the TCR World Tour drivers to some extent because of the lack of competiton: when there are only nine full-timers, being the second-best driver may not be worth as much as being the second-best driver in deeper series like Supercars, BTCC, or DTM. Ehrlacher did nicely bounce back from his team shutting down the previous year, but this still wasn't quite on the level of his 2020 or 2021 seasons, and both of those years had deeper fields.

28. (C) Mirko Bortolotti

Bortolotti had a very similar season to Ehrlacher. Just like how Ehrlacher finished 2nd in the TCR World Tour championship yet tied the champion Norbert Michelisz with three wins each, Bortolotti finished second in the DTM championship to Thomas Preining and both of them won thrice as well. (I think Michelisz and Preining had essentially even seasons too, and it took a while to decide which driver I would rank higher.) However, DTM had a much stronger field in 2023 with 27 full-time teams, many more good full-time drivers, and drivers who tended to rank much higher in my touring car model as five of the top seven drivers in my touring car model came from DTM in 2023. However, I do think the DTM drivers were overrated last year mainly because DTM does not have any field invresions in their races while other series like the TCR World Tour and the BTCC do, which leads to more volatility and artificiality in those series at times. Despite finishing 2nd in points and ranking 7th globally in my touring car model in 2023, he only ranked 5th among DTM drivers with a rating of .394 largely because one of his teammates was Alessio Deledda, who finished 32nd and last in the points standings. Deledda is so weak that even sweeping him wasn't worth as much as other DTM drivers posting worse records against substantially better teammates, but with a 10-3 defeat over former IndyCar driver Franck Perera and a 9-0 sweep over Deledda, which makes his overall touring car record a ridiculous 56-5, there's not much more he really could do than what he actually did. So that's not the reason why I left him out of the top 25 and my full elite tier. No, the reason I did that was despite ranking 2nd in natural races led with 3, tying Preining's 3 wins, races with the most laps led, and poles, ranking 2nd to him in most other categories, and even leading in CRL with 2.88, he never made an on-track pass for the lead for the entire season. It was admittedly extremely difficult to do that in DTM in 2023 as there were only three on-track passes for the lead in the entire series in that season, but Bortolotti didn't have one of them. Additionally, he also made a lot of crossovers into other sports car series including WEC, IMSA, and the GT World Challenge Endurance Cup, but he didn't really contend in any of those series in any way. He was still very impressive, especially in a year when Perera finished 11th in points and Deledda 32nd, but I felt between the lack of passing and his mediocre sports car performances, he was just shy of qualifying to be one of the elite touring car or sports car drivers of the year.

27. (27) Chaz Mostert

The same goes for Mostert, the second of three drivers who I ranked in the exact same position on my top 100 list in both 2021 and 2022. Mostert might lowkey actually be the best touring car driver in the world. For the second season in a row, he was the highest-rated Supercars driver in my touring car model in 2023. In both 2022 and 2023, he absolutely obliterated his teammate Nick Percat at Walkinshaw Andretti United, beating him 27-4 in 2022 and actually improving on that to beat him 22-2 in 2023, and Percat was not a bad driver. Prior to being Mostert's teammate he had finished in the top ten in Supercars points for four consecutive seasons and won four races including a Bathurst 1000. Percat had also posted a winning record against every single full-time Supercars teammate he had competed against from 2015-21 so for Mostert to beat Percat as badly as he did is pretty amazing. He actually beat Shane van Gisbergen in my model in 2022, a year when SVG won 21 races and I ranked him second in the world. The Andretti cars seemed to be slower in 2023 than they were in 2022, and Mostert ended up dropping from 3rd to 4th in points between seasons, and more notably dropping from winning 5 times to 0, but Percat fared even worse as he dropped from 15th to 20th in the championship, so his head-to-head performance actually improved even while his raw stats deteriorated. Mostert's speed percentile actually did not drop much, dropping only from 75.02 to 73.29, which may mean the fact he didn't win was a problem; on the other hand, Percat's speed plummeted from an already-low 39.62 to a putrid 29.57 so Mostert beat Percat by a substantially greater margin by this metric as well. That made it hard for me to decide whether he should move up or down so I ended up doing neither. Mostert did end up scoring a class win at the Bathurst 12 Hour with two very obscure drivers Fraser Ross and Liam Talbot, so you can be sure he was 95% of the reason for that, and he did have to face some pretty significant competition in the PA class in that race including Ricardo Feller, Christopher Mies, Jamie Whincup, David Reynolds, Craig Lowndes, and Anton de Pasquale, so that is one major feather he has in his cap. More notably, he also scored a Pro-Am class win in the 24 Hours of Spa with Nicky Catsburg, Martin Konrad, and Adam Osieka.

26. (C-) Nicky Catsburg

@racermetrics Thanks ;). Hope to be a bit higher up the list in '16

— Nicky Catsburg (@nickcatsburg) January 3, 2016

I must admit I have a certain affinity for Mr. Catsburg after he was the first driver to ever reply to me on the Platform Formerly Known as Twitter (and still I think the only driver.) For me Catsburg is the cat's pajamas. I was working on a list for 2016 but ended up only publishing a few portions of it on the late, long-lamented racing-reference blogs and I honestly couldn't even find my columns for that list when I dug through the Internet Archive to look for them. When I was reviewing people's comments and criticisms in response to the Autosport top 50 list, what I saw repeatedly was that everyone felt two GT sports car drivers: Raffaele Marciello and Catsburg should be significantly higher than where Autosport placed them because of their eclectic and prolific winning seasons across a wide variety of sports car series. I didn't think that was the list's biggest flaw (I thought their biggest issue was underrating touring car drivers) but I did decide to end up rating Catsburg and Marciello higher than I intended and I ultimately decided that they were the last two drivers on the bubble for the last spot in my top 25 Elite/E tier. One of them would be in the E tier and score 10 points towards my top 1,000 list while the other would be in the E- tier and score only 5 points. I have to draw the line somewhere. Catsburg's main accomplishment was winning the WEC LMGTE Am class with his teammates Ben Keating and Nico Varrone for Corvette Racing; he was also the fastest driver on the team with an average speed of 82.81 to Varrone's 71.59 and Keating's 30.28, but he was the only driver on the team who had no passes for the lead and Varrone led the way in terms of CRL. The triumvirate won three races including winning at Le Mans in class. Catsburg also claimed the Asian Le Mans Series GT championship co-driving with Chandler Hull and Thomas Merrill; they won two of the four races in that series. He also earned a class win at the 24 Hours of Spa with the aforementioned team that he co-led with Mostert, but maybe his biggest accomplishment came at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, where he won overall for the Frikadelli Racing Team alongside Earl Bamber, Felipe Fernández Laser, and David Pittard. Nonetheless, I ultimately decided Marciello impressed me a little more.

25. (62) Raffaele Marciello

I ultimately chose Marciello over Catsburg for the last spot in my Elite (E) tier but it was an extremely close call. Marciello's primary accomplishments came in the GT World Challenge, where he won two races in the Endurance Cup where he and teammates Timur Boguslavskiy and Jules Gounon won the championship. Additionally, he also won four races in that series's Sprint Cup, finishing 2nd in the championship again with Boguslavskiy. I give Marciello the vast majority of the credit for these accomplishments as Boguslavskiy has hardly any major accomplishments that he achieved by himself and I already mentioned how Gounon was surprisingly slow in the IMSA GTD Pro class earlier despite winning four races there. Marciello seems like he was definitely the linchpin of that team. He also won a race in British GT but Marciello's greatest accomplishment this season was probably winning the FIA GT World Cup, where he and most of the other great GT drivers in the world competed in a single-driver race with no co-drivers, which allows me to more easily distinguish between drivers than I can in most other GT races (which nearly always have multi-driver teams except for DTM.) Marciello won both races in the FIA GT World Cup beating a field that included four other drivers on my top 100 list: Daniel Serra, Thomas Preining, Sheldon van der Linde, and Maro Engel, and several others who made the 200. I ultimately decided Marciello was better than Catsburg because I think the GT European championships are stronger than the Pro-Am class of the WEC and the GT class of the Asian Le Mans Series, Marciello won eight major races to Catsburg's seven, and Marciello won a single-driver race while all of Catsburg's accomplishments were with other teammates. I also think Marciello dominated his teammates to a greater degree than Catsburg did, because Catsburg and Nico Varrone seemed pretty close in performance while I don't think Marciello and Gounon were. But considering all the endurance races Catsburg won, it was definitely a close call.

24. (48) Jake Hill

In the YouTube video I have embedded above, Hill made what I believe was the most impressive pass in motorsports last year diving into the grass to make a three-wide pass on Josh Cook and Hill's teammate Stephen Jelley to win the British Touring Car Championship finale at Brands Hatch, the last of six wins for him in what was definitely one of the most electrifying touring car seasons in the world last year. The pass was like Alex Zanardi and Dale Earnhardt all at once and definitely the wildest successful move I've seen since Ross Chastain, yet it didn't really make him a star since the BTCC doesn't really seem capable of producing stars since almost nobody outside of the UK cares about it and the UK motorsports press generally regards anybody who ever did anything in F1 as better than any of the drivers who came out of their own domestic series. It continues to astonish me that I, an American, consistently rate the BTCC drivers higher than the British motorsports press does, but here we go again. Been there, done that. Although Hill finished 3rd in the championship and also ranked third in speed with a speed percentile of 79.87, he outperformed that in every other category I track. He tied Tom Ingram for the best lead change percentage at 3-1 (indicating that the Brands Hatch pass was actually part of a larger trend) and in all other categories he was second to Ashley Sutton, albeit usually a distant second with 5 natural races led, 6 wins, 5 TNL, 4.67 lead shares, 5 races with the most lead shares, 6.19 CRL, 7 races with the most laps led, 5 fastest laps, and 5 fastest races. As I already revealed in my entry on Hill's teammate, four-time BTCC champion Colin Turkington, Hill was arguably even a little unlucky as he was frequently let down by inverted grid races, which made his advantage over Turkington look much smaller than it actually was. Five of Hill's six wins were determined in races based on speed (either qualifying or the finishing order of the first race) while only his final one (the Brands Hatch win with the three-wide pass in the grass) came in an inverted-grid race. This is even more impressive because he seemed to have much slower cars than Sutton did as Sutton and his teammates Dan Cammish and Daniel Rowbottom won nine out of ten poles while Hill did not win any, meaning he frequently had to come from behind on track in races that are extremely short (since they usually only last about 20 minutes each.) Even in spite of that, Hill was the second-highest BTCC driver in my teammate model and 19th among all touring car drivers at .296, which is not very far behind Sutton's .321. That in itself is very impressive because Sutton was the best touring car driver of the year, winning 12 BTCC races in 2023 and tying the all-time record in a series that has existed since 1958. But it seems he'll never get the respect from the international racing press which he deserves since it seems Supercars is the only touring car series that gets a lot of hype internationally (and understandably so, what with Scott McLaughlin becoming an IndyCar star and Shane van Gisbergen winning on his NASCAR debut) and even the Brits themselves don't seem to care about the series, with Autosport ridiculously only ranking Sutton 36th behind nine F1 drivers and one part-time one in Liam Lawson. If they were going to underrate Sutton to that extent, there was obviously no chance they were going to also list Hill but I think they really should have both been locks on anyone's top 50 list. In my overall touring car model, Sutton only ranks behind three 21st-century Supercars drivers (McLaughlin, Chaz Mostert, and Marcos Ambrose, and he's basically tied with Ambrose) and I think all the BTCC drivers are underrated relative to Supercars drivers in my model since Supercars has extremely rarely had field inversions while the BTCC has them all the time. I'm not sure the series is much less prestigious even though most people seem to think so. And even if he hadn't won all those other races (which he did), you could make a case that making the Pass of the Year is worthy of elite placement by itself, just like when I probably overrated Chastain the year before.. I honestly wonder if I underrated Hill here.

23. (C) Nick Cassidy

Much like last year's Formula E champion Jake Dennis, Cassidy has been one of the hottest up-and-comers in open wheel racing in recent years and in both cases it was kind of a surprise. Neither driver was all that great in minor league open wheel series but they've definitely developed quite nicely to the point they're definitely both among the best open wheel drivers in the world now. Because F1's Super Licence system is so restrictive, they frequently miss out on talents who have slower ascents but are better in the long run and Cassidy is one such driver. Prior to his switch to Super Formula, he was one of the hottest drivers in domestic Japanese racing, winning the 2017 Super GT title with Ryō Hirakawa as well as the 2019 Super Formula title (where he beat eventual two-time IndyCar champion Álex Palou); in both 2018 and 2019, he was the highest-rated Super Formula driver in my touring car model as well. Although it took him a while to completely learn the cars and the tracks in Super Formula, Cassidy finally had his breakout season in 2023, which was probably his best career season to date. Despite being the teammate of Sébastien Buemi, the winningest driver in Formula E history, Cassidy significantly outperformed Buemi for pretty much the entire season, finishing second in the championship and tying Mitch Evans for the most wins with four while Buemi finished sixth in the championship and went winless. Cassidy outscored Buemi 199 points to 105 and beat him 9-5 in races. Additionally, he led the series in numerous statistical categories including also tying Evans for the most natural races led (5) and most TNL (4) and utterly dominating the series in CRL (with 3.48 to second place Dennis's 2.39) and races with the most laps led (with 6 to Evans's 3). He also was the fastest driver of 2023 with a speed percentile of 77.99, substantially better than Buemi's 66.13. The only categories Buemi actually beat Cassidy in were poles (2-1) and fastest laps (2-0). Buemi still had some speed, but he did not even come close to matching Cassidy's performance. Having said that, I only think he was the third-best driver in the series since he did lose to Evans in more statistical categories than not as Evans had a lead change record of 9-3 to Cassidy's 6-6 and he also beat Cassidy in lead shares marginally and in my teammate model by a lot. His rating of .168 was still quite solid even though it only ranked 28th overall and 7th among Formula E drivers. Nonetheless, his speed and dominance were so strong that I kind of ignored my model in evaluating him, which I usually have to do because much like Tyler Reddick in my NASCAR model, he has seemed to be consistently one of the most underrated drivers in my open wheel model for years. Dennis seemed to have a slower car than the other two, but I would say he overachieved in it a bit more than Cassidy did. I downgraded Cassidy a little relative to the other two because he was the fastest driver yet both Evans and Cassidy beat him in several categories, but he still definitely had an elite season.

22. (14) Josef Newgarden

Well, I pretty much called it. In my review of Newgarden's 2022 season, I wrote: "his road course performance seems to be taking a bit of a downturn, which is not a good sign when the series is so skewed towards road and street courses now" and also "I get the sense that this is the end of Newgarden's "imperial reign" and he knows it as evidenced by the chinks in his armor last year. He will still win many more races. He will probably win an Indy 500 and another title, but I suspect this is the last time he will be the best IndyCar driver in a season as McLaughlin seems poised to take the mantle from him with drivers like O'Ward, Herta, and Palou nipping at his heels." All these things seemed to come to pass for Newgarden in 2023 just as I predicted. Although he did finally win his first Indy 500, it was starting to seem like it might never happen since he won in his 12th Indy start and no prior driver had ever won their first Indy 500 in later than their 12th start (Sam Hanks in 1957 and Tony Kanaan in 2013 both did that.) While records like that are made to be broken, I do wonder somewhat if either Penske or Newgarden were somewhat superstitious about this and felt like if he didn't win last year, it might never happen. I wouldn't wonder that if his road course performance remained the same, but he was for the first time at Penske pretty much a total non-factor on road and street courses with the exception of one pass for the lead at Long Beach while Penske seemed to go all in on oval development. It was a real Jekyll and Hyde season for Newgarden as he won the first four oval races of the season, which coupled with his 2022 Gateway win gave him five in a row, the longest such streak in IndyCar history dating back to A.J. Foyt in 1964. Yet in spite of that, his road/street course performance was so shockingly mediocre that his overall speed percentile of 64.57 was by far his lowest as a Penske driver and pretty indistinguishable with 2015 and 2016, the two years he drove for Ed Carpenter Racing, which presumably was not as fast a car as Penske is now. Newgarden only ranked 9th in speed overall not only behind both of his teammates and all three veteran Ganassi drivers but also even the likes of Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist; even Takuma Sato and Linus Lundqvist in their part-time stints had a faster average speed than Newgarden. At one point even Ganassi rookie Markus Armstrong did and he literally did nothing! For a while, I was thinking about still rating Newgarden as the highest IndyCar driver anyway given the historic nature of his oval streak, but then were there all the other races. By almost all metrics of speed, Newgarden suddenly declined: it was his first season without a pole since 2016, tied for his fewest fastest laps (1) since 2015, and his fewest fastest races (1) since 2015 as well. Still, even though the speed wasn't there the performance definitely still was. He definitely had amazing racecraft on ovals and his 13-8 lead change record was the best in the series (marking the fifth season he has had the best lead change record after 2015-18), as were his 5 TNL (the second-best of his career behind only 2018) and 3.51 lead shares (ditto.) Unlike Ryan Blaney for instance, it wasn't a Penske-wide issue either as both Will Power and Scott McLaughlin actually were faster in 2023 than in 2022 (albeit both of them had dips in performance.) Newgarden in some respects had one of the most clutch seasons in IndyCar history as he had a 5-0 record on the last lead change of the race, including all four of his oval wins even though Pato O'Ward seemed to be faster at Texas and several others like Marcus Ericsson seemed to be faster at Indy (you could say Ericsson really deserved it, but if the officials hadn't thrown any fake red flags to end the race under green they probably would have issued neither the second nor third red flag and Newgarden still would have won.) What's even stranger is that despite winning four out of five oval races and dominating the last one at Gateway before crashing, he wasn't even the fastest oval driver (O'Ward was actually faster despite going winless, and you could really see that at Texas, Indy, and Gateway too.) I don't know what to do with a season so unbalanced where his speed percentile on ovals was 91.80 and his speed percentile on road courses was 53.22. I have rarely seen a disparity that stark (although admittedly Graham Rahal's was almost as bad in the opposite direction, which makes sense since he missed the Indy 500 yet had 2 TNL on road courses.) Ranking 2nd in speed on ovals and winning almost all of them while only ranking 14th in speed on road/street courses is freaking bizarre. The only conclusion I can come to is that maybe his team really did go all in on oval development to go for the Indy win and decided to just stop developing their road/street course program for 2023. If that's what they did, it certainly worked. Considering Ganassi had more speed than Penske, Newgarden probably wouldn't have beaten Álex Palou for the title anyway even if he had more consistent performance across all track types but more people care about the Indy 500 than the championship anyway, and I'm sure Newgarden especially did since he already has two titles, thereby making Palou actually the only IRL/IndyCar champion since 2000 who has not yet won the Indy 500. Ultimately, his performance went up despite his speed plummeting so I can't rank him too low. He still ranked 18th overall, 4th among IndyCar, and 1st among Penske drivers in my teammate model at .256 only barely nosing out Scott Dixon, but he wsa a lot better than Dixon. But I do think I have to knock him for the speed decline. A driver frequently regarded as the best in the series should not be slower on road courses than a mediocre Ganassi rookie. I'm proud of my predictions from last year. I think I pretty much nailed it.

21. (75) Antonio Fuoco

In one of the year's biggest surprises, Fuoco was unexpectedly the fastest driver in the WEC Hypercar class despite the fact that he was in a Ferrari while the Toyotas generally tended to dominate throughout the season. His speed percentile of 88.91 utterly dominated all five of his teammates: James Calado (68.15), Nicklas Nielsen (66.41), Antonio Giovinazzi (66.23), Miguel Molina (58.35), and Alessandro Pier Guidi (54.77). Just how much did Fuoco dominate in speed? Not only was he faster than all six Toyota drivers, but all five of his teammates were slower than all six Toyota drivers. Hence, he ranked first in speed while Calado was only eighth. Granted, Ferrari's AF Corse team was certainly the second-fastest team all season as the two Ferraris finished third and fourth in the championship directly behind the two Toyotas and obviously Calado, Giovinazzi, and Pier Guidi won at Le Mans, which may be more valuable than winning the WEC title himself, although that was admittedly the other car. Fuoco did not have any passes for or against unlike his Le Mans-winning teammates, but what he did have was speed. He won two poles at Sebring and Le Mans and was the only non-Toyota driver to win a pole in 2023. He also had a fastest lap and was the only non-Toyota driver to do that, and a fastest race making him one of only two drivers along with Calado to do that. Only Kamui Kobayashi for Toyota also had a pole, a fastest lap, and a fastest race and they definitely seemed to be the two most impressive Hypercar drivers. Although a lot of people rated Fuoco higher (Sportscar365 declared him Hypercar driver of the year and Autosport ranked him 7th as the highest sports car driver), but I can't quite get there myself. If neither Ferrari had the speed to lead, I might be inclined to take Fuoco over Kobayashi, but I think I do have to hold the fact that the other Ferrari won at Le Mans while he hardly led all season against him to some extent, so I marginally prefer Kobayashi's season. But Fuoco was close. He was definitely close.

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.