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MotoGP

Austrian Grand Prix 2023 MotoGP rider rankings

by Simon Patterson
11 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

With an Austrian Grand Prix victory, a win in Saturday’s sprint race at the Red Bull Ring, every single lap led, pole position and a new lap record for reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia, there simply can’t be any doubt about who sits atop this weekend’s MotoGP rider ratings, with one of the most dominant performances of recent times the highlight of an otherwise dull race weekend.

But while it might not have been the most exciting of races, there was still plenty of action – and with a series of high-profile blunders and a number of wholly absent champions, there’s still more than enough to talk about when it comes to ranking the racers on their respective performances – using not just results but all manner of metrics.

Scoring the grid in order based on their performances not just in the main event but also Saturday’s sprint race, it’s obviously all subjective – but comes not just from their final race result but takes into account things like the machinery they’re on and the pre-race expectations of them.

1 Pecco Bagnaia

Started: 1st Sprint: 1st Race: 1st

Bagnaia 19 Uc541052 High

The reigning world champion came to the Red Bull Ring, he saw, and he conquered.

Utterly dominant all weekend long, it wasn’t necessarily Bagnaia’s speed that even contributed the most to his dominance but rather the way in which he utilised the Ducati’s improved starts and then managed both his own tyres and his rivals behind him.

As a result, no one else even looked close to being able to take him on; his championship defence rolls on in style.

2 Brad Binder

Started: 3rd Sprint: 2nd Race: 2nd

Brad Binder (ktm, South Africa)

Sure, the weekend might not have resulted in the wins that he was no doubt chasing in front of his factory’s home crowd, but a brace of second place finishes is a very strong weekend indeed for Binder.

More stymied by the current state of the series than anything else, he just couldn’t get past Pecco Bagnaia every time he tried.

But being smart enough to settle for second rather than risking something for nothing – as was the case with some of the more foolhardy overtaking attempts seen during the Red Bull Ring weekend – was smart riding.

3 Marco Bezzecchi

Started: 7th Sprint: DNF Race: 3rd

Marco Bezzecchi Crash, Sprint Race, Austrian Motogp, 19 August 2023

Unlucky in the sprint to only make it 300 metres into the race before encountering Jorge Martin’s cannonball run, Bezzecchi was at least able to salvage his weekend with yet another strong Sunday podium.

Proving his consistency as well as his speed of late, it’s again no surprise that he’s causing Ducti a factory bike dilemma for next season.

4 Pol Espargaro

Started: 13th Sprint: 6th Race: 16th

Pol Espargaro

The open joy from many of Espargaro’s rivals at his impressive run in Saturday’s sprint race tells you everything you really need to know about it.

This was the first weekend since his horrendous, life-changing injuries at Portimao in round one where he’s looked like his old self, and the result reminded everyone – and especially his KTM bosses – just what he’s capable of at a crucial time.

Even if the energy levels couldn’t sustain it on Sunday, he’s signalled his MotoGP intentions.

5 Alex Marquez

Started: 5th Sprint: 4th Race: 5th

Alex Marquez

It went somewhat under the radar, but the Austrian Grand Prix was a very respectable event for at least one Marquez brother.

He looked fast (if not quite in podium contention) all weekend long, and there are plenty of positives to take from it for the Gresini Ducati rider. Finally getting a weekend free from any bad luck, he proved that he can string it together when things go right and, with contract speculation continuing to swirl around, the timing could well be fortuitous.

6 Luca Marini

Started: 6th Sprint: DNF Race: 4th

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What should have been a great weekend for VR46 Ducati rider Marini ended up getting downgraded into just a good one through no real fault of his own – but he’ll still head home from Austria pleased to have shown yet more good pace.

He was in the podium mix on Saturday until being knocked down by Martin and then picked up where he left off on Sunday, which was nothing to be too disappointed about, all things considered.

7 Maverick Vinales

Started: 2nd Sprint: 8th Race: 6th

Maverick Vinales (aprilia, Spain)

Vinales’ weekend should have been a whole lot better than it was – and the reason for that is a problem as old as his MotoGP career itself: his inability to start races well.

Sure, it’s an area where Aprilia is struggling technically, but it’s also a problem inherent to the rider too. He did manage two decent if not amazing results in the end, but it wasn’t the sort of exceptional weekend that his pace on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning had hinted was possible.

8 Miguel Oliveira

Started: 8th Sprint: DNF Race: DNF

1065598

The unluckiest rider on the grid’s misfortune continued for another weekend. This time it was first through being T-boned out of the sprint by Martin and then after the RNF team decided to try something new in the race, which was brought to a premature end when Oliveira’s tyre balancing weights fell off.

Though he was strong in qualifying, it’s nonetheless hard to measure his race performance considering he managed a total of 500 metres at speed in both outings.

9 Fabio Quartararo

Started: 9th Sprint: 15th Race: 8th

Fabio Quartararo (yamaha, France)

In theory, the Red Bull Ring isn’t a particularly Yamaha-friendly track, but despite that it’s one where Quartararo has performed reasonably well in the past.

Sunday’s race was no exception given expectation versus result, although his sprint race was hindered by a deserved long lap penalty handed down against him for contact with Aprilia test rider Lorenzo Savadori as he muscled his way past.

10 Augusto Fernandez

Started: 22nd Sprint: 17th Race: 14th

Augusto Fernandez

Mr Consistency strikes again, with the rookie producing another example of what we’ve come to expect from him in his debut season: a slow start to the weekend, lots learned in the sprint race, and the ability to turn that into yet another points-scoring finish on Sunday.

Fernandez was able to battle with Gas Gas team-mate Pol Espargaro over the full race distance, and it’s these sort of races that will be important in steering the rather unclear path of his future.

11 Aleix Espargaro

Started: 11th Sprint: 7th Race: 9th

Aleix Espargaro

By his recent standards, Espargaro’s weekend at the Red Bull Ring was mediocre, as he struggled with the fundamental issues inherent in having a bike designed for fast and flowing corners at a stop-start circuit.

Overly physical and with tyre temperature and pressure through the roof, it’s perhaps not a surprise that in the end he was quietly pleased to have secured two solid if unexceptional results.

12 Lorenzo Savadori

Started: 23rd Sprint: DNF Race: 19th

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A standard issue test rider weekend for Italian Savadori, the only blip in his form came at the hands of someone else thanks to his Quartararo-induced crash out of the sprint race.

Beyond that, he completed lots of laps and gathered plenty of data for Aprilia’s engineers – which is exactly what he was sent to Austria to do.

13 Iker Lecuona

Started: 21st Sprint: 16th Race: 20th

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Nothing fancy from the LCR Honda stand-in, but another solid weekend of improving his trade should Honda need him to step in again in the future (something that, let’s be honest, seems all but inevitable).

Seeing the chequered flag both times and not being all that far away from his more experienced fellow Honda racers means that Lecuona can be yet again quietly pleased about his weekend.

14 Franco Morbidelli

Started: 15th Sprint: 9th Race: 11th

1065542

This was another rather uneventful weekend for Morbidelli where he slotted into his usual position just inside the points and extended his record as one of only two racers to score on every single Sunday this year.

Neither as quick as team-mate Quartararo nor the slowest rider on a Japanese bike, unfortunately it was just another weekend of treading water for the one-time MotoGP runner-up.

15 Marc Marquez

Started: 18th Sprint: 10th Race: 12th

Marc Marquez

Marquez has been described in many terms during his time in MotoGP, but one that’s never been used – until this weekend – is anonymous.

Almost completely invisible at the Red Bull Ring, something he said was partly by design, Marquez just rode around at the back making up the numbers – which is perhaps an even more damning take on the state of the bike than when he was smashing himself to pieces while overriding it.

16 Enea Bastianini

Started: 14th Sprint: 13th Race: 10th

Enea Bastianini

Something really isn’t going right for Ducati’s second factory rider right now and, months after the injury that delayed his start to the season, it’s hard to continue to blame physical form for it. Rather, it seems that something isn’t quite there in Bastianini’s understanding of the Desmosedici as he continues to chase base settings.

He needs the basics fixed, and fast, if he wants to find a way to start winning again before the end of the season.

17 Fabio Di Giannantonio

Started: 20th Sprint: 11th Race: 17th

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Unfortunately this was another weekend where Di Giannantonio didn’t do anything to convince people that he deserves a MotoGP seat next season.

While he is obviously making slow but gradual improvements in how he rides the Gresini Ducati, they’re just not coming fast enough – and while Di Giannantonio talks regularly about being unable to put all the pieces he has in front of him together at the same time, that’s a part of the job he’s being paid to do right now.

18 Raul Fernandez

Started: 17th Sprint: 14th Race: DNF

1064305

Things still haven’t clicked for Fernandez at RNF Aprilia and, even if all this weekend’s woes weren’t entirely his own fault, it was another disappointing outing for the Spaniard.

Not close to the other strong Aprilias in qualifying and disappointing in the sprint, at least he was able to pin Sunday’s woes on Michelin – but it still isn’t good enough and it’s not too surprising that people are questioning why the team is so adamant that he’s safe and secure for 2024.

19 Johann Zarco

Started: 10th Sprint: DNF Race: 13th

Johann Zarco (ducati, France)

Very much a weekend where his focus was on the future rather than the present, Zarco at least had the presence of mind to admit that the business of completing an LCR Honda contract for 2024 and 2025 was a distraction from his day job.

It absolutely impacted his weekend, which featured two disappointing results – while also highlighting the high bar that we’ve come to expect from him of late.

20 Jorge Martin

Started: 12th Sprint: 3rd Race: 7th

Jorge Martin

Let’s be honest here: Martin’s weekend will only be remembered for one thing, and it’s not his sprint podium.

Triggering a massive Turn 1 pile up in Saturday’s race that took 20% of the grid out of contention, he was exceptionally lucky to retain his rostrum spot.

And while Sunday’s race might have been hampered by the long lap penalty he was eventually handed, it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for him considering his overall weekend points tally.

21 Taka Nakagami

Started: 19th Sprint: DNF Race: 18th

Takaaki Nakagami

Of the four Honda riders on the grid at the Red Bull Ring, perhaps the one who ends the weekend most frustrated is Nakagami given it’s a track where he has looked really sharp in the past.

Nakagami was obviously never going to win the race given his bike’s current state, so it would perhaps have been a target to get in the mix with a rather dialled-down Marquez for the top Honda honours. Instead, he was nowhere even close to that marker.

22 Jack Miller

Started: 4th Sprint: 5th Race: 15th

Jack Miller (ktm, Australia)

A very typical weekend for Miller – and not in a good way – who was fast in practice, rapid in qualifying, and then simply unable to manage his machine throughout the races. It obviously impacted him less in Saturday’s shorter event, but Sunday showed the reality.

It’s been a problem of Miller’s for as long as he’s been in MotoGP, and it’s one that he isn’t showing any real signs of improving upon.

23 Joan Mir

Started: 16th Sprint: 12th Race: DNF

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It’s hard to write more about Joan Mir’s horrendous Groundhog Day 2023 season without just repeating the past.

The rhythm seems pretty well-set now: lacklustre qualifying, mediocre sprint, crash from the race. It repeats over and over, and the 2020 world champion just can’t seem to find any way out of the hellscape he’s trapped in.

More than anyone else, Honda improvements cannot come soon enough for Mir.

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