Obviously, the final metric by which we measure MotoGP success is the end of season championship standings - and when it comes to those there’s no doubt that newly-crowned double world champion Pecco Bagnaia deserves his accolades.
But while on-track performance is a hard-and-fast score, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other factors that come into play over the course of a full season - and that’s where our end-of-year rider rankings come into play.
After each race weekend throughout the season, I scored the grid in order based on their performances not just in the main event but also Saturday’s sprint race.
Taking each full-time entrant's average rankings position as a basis - but also making adjustments here and there to account for general trends and the actual number of events a rider participated in (a massively variable stat given the high rate of injuries) - has yielded the following order for the final end-of-year rider ranking.
22 Joan Mir
It comes as no surprise at all to see Repsol Honda rider and former world champion Joan Mir in last place of the list, after the truly dire season he had in 2023.
Struggling on most occasions to even see the chequered flag, let alone to look like someone capable of fighting for race wins, it was one to forget for him - made even worse by some significantly better results from team-mate Marc Marquez and even, on occasion, from other Honda racers like former Suzuki team-mate and 2023 race winner Alex Rins.
21 Taka Nakagami
For a large part of this season, it’s felt like Taka Nakagami has, to be honest, been doing the very bare minimum.
That’s not necessarily something you can blame him for, mind you, considering just how difficult the Honda is to ride - a fact reinforced by the fact that his caution (which still did allow for 12 crashes) ensured that he was Honda's only full-time rider not to miss races through injury in 2023.
20 Pol Espargaro
It’s obviously unfair on Pol Espargaro that he features so low on this list through what was really none of his own fault.
Badly hurt before the season even started when he struck a tyre wall that should have been an air fence at Portimao, his life-threatening injuries marred the rest of the season.
Ending the year still not fully fit, it’s not a surprise KTM rather harshly chose to chop him to make room at the Gas Gas team for Pedro Acosta, but it remains to be seen if a year off can help Espargaro find his way back.
19 Jack Miller
Perhaps no one had a more typical season than Jack Miller, with KTM’s new signing demonstrating on occasion that he still has race-winning pace - but that he still lacks the consistency to be a title contender.
Beaten consistently by team-mate Brad Binder, run close on occasion by rookie Augusto Fernandez, and regularly shown up by his own worst enemy (himself), his crash out of the lead while en route to an easy win at Valencia neatly encapsulated Miller’s whole season.
18 Enea Bastianini
Sure, Enea Bastianini’s season was marred by injury and you can’t not take that into account when looking at his year.
However, for a large part of it he wasn’t hurt - and during that time, it’s fair to say that he struggled to click with the 2023 Desmosedici.
Aside from a single victory at Sepang, he spent a lot of the latter part of the year looking distinctly average compared to Bagnaia and Jorge Martin in particular - and it’s not a huge surprise that so many rumours circulated linking him to a seat swap with the latter.
17 Franco Morbidelli
There were moments this season where it looked like the real Franco Morbidelli was on his way back to form - but those moments were fleeting.
Up and down but very rarely ahead of team-mate Fabio Quartararo, he’s been thrown the ultimate lifeline in inheriting a 2024-spec Pramac Ducati that will be the ultimate arbiter in whether or not he can truly bounce back to the form he had in 2020 when he was fighting for a title.
16 Raul Fernandez
Perhaps one of the harsher placements in this article, it’s because while Raul Fernandez might have finished the season very strongly, he spent an awful lot of it failing to live up to expectations.
It was very much a case of doing what he said he was going to do and building into it, but that’s a strategy that perhaps meant actual results took a little too long to come.
Now, the pressure is really on to start 2024 where he finished 2023 and finally live up to the hype that surrounded him on his MotoGP debut two years ago.
15 Marc Marquez
We definitely saw two different versions of Marc Marquez during 2023.
Version one was the reckless and self-destructive rider that looked set to ride through anyone and anything on the weekends where he felt capable, and version two was a rider more happy to settle for mediocrity than we’ve ever seen before from the six-time MotoGP champion.
Unfortunately, his gauge of which one we were going to get was occasionally a little off - and the end result was some decent results and a trail of broken bones and machines (not all of which were his own).
14 Alex Rins
There is of course one and only one highlight of Alex Rins’ whole season - but the fact that he comes home as top Honda scorer shows just how impressive his Circuit of the Americas victory was.
The only one of its quartet to win a race in 2023, it’s a shame that his performances got capped only a few races later with a devastating leg injury at Mugello that effectively ended his year in May.
13 Maverick Vinales
It was a season where once again more was expected of Maverick Vinales than he delivered.
He really should've become the first person in modern MotoGP history to win on three different bikes, and it was his big chance to beat team-mate Aleix Espargaro in the standings. Neither of those things transpired.
It almost needed to be the year where he finally put everything together on the Aprilia and showed us that he could be a title contender - but instead it’s hard not to feel disappointed about how it played out.
12 Miguel Oliveira
Without a doubt the unluckiest racer on the grid this year, a lot of Miguel Oliviera’s early woes were the result of other people as he repeatedly got t-boned out of races despite having strong pace.
However, that pace was hit or miss in the latter stages of the year through no one’s fault but his own - and the season-ending crash was an error of his own making.
The speed is there, but the consistency is not, and that needs to be the main thing that he works on for 2024 once he's fit again.
11 Aleix Espargaro
There’s a few riders on this list who should be disappointed with their seasons, and Aleix Espargaro is maybe top of the pile.
A genuine title contender in 2022, this year was full of yet more of the disappointing (and at times embarrassing) moments that unfortunately make you think that he and his Aprilia team will never quite be good enough for the top spot.
Still the best Aprilia, still a very respectable sixth overall, there’s something that’s just not quite there for him - and 2023 wasn’t the year he came any closer to finding it.
10 Fabio Quartararo
Fabio Quartararo had an unusual season in that more was expected of him than 10th in the championship and a few podiums here and there - but at the same time, those podiums in particular were an important testament to the Frenchman’s skills given that this year’s Yamaha simply wasn’t up to scratch.
He reminded us on multiple occasions that he’s a step up from most of his rivals in terms of talent - except that his current situation means that talent has been hard to fully show off.
9 Johann Zarco
Obviously the highlight of Johann Zarco’s year was his first-ever (and long overdue) premier-class victory at Phillip Island - but beyond that debut on the top step of the podium, there’s plenty more to be pleased about for the Frenchman after yet another season of solid results.
Consistency is once again the bane of his year, though: some weekends he appears from nowhere to snatch an impressive late-race podium, but plenty of others he just stays nowhere.
8 Alex Marquez
Finally, Alex Marquez is a MotoGP race winner, or at least a double sprint race victor.
However, it feels a little like he left something on the table in 2023, given the pre-season expectations we had for him once he clicked with the Gresini Ducati.
He’s still got rough edges to iron out, as we saw repeatedly this year, and they cost him performances that he should have been able to convert into even more success.
7 Fabio Di Giannantonio
There was a brief time when it looked like Fabio Di Giannantonio's fabulous end to the season had come just a little too late to secure him a ride for next year.
Such was the strength of the conclusion to his season, that’s thankfully been averted.
Outscoring all but Bagnaia and Martin in the final third of the year, it might have come after a very slow start (relative to the other seven Ducatis) but it was enough to buy him a 2024 reprieve and another chance to show what he’s capable of next time out.
6 Augusto Fernandez
It’s easy to be rookie of the year when you’re the only one - but Augusto Fernandez did a fine job of earning his title in style in 2023 by delivering some really exceptional results.
Building all season into a complete MotoGP racer, he arrived there just in time for a strong end to the year that saw him regularly nipping at the heels of factory rider Miller and well clear of injured team-mate Pol Espargaro.
A few impressive results, including a remarkable fourth place at Tech3’s home race in France, are the icing on the cake of a truly excellent first season for the newcomer.
5 Luca Marini
One of the year's biggest surprises was absolutely Luca Marini, with the VR46 Ducati racer living up to the promise he showed in 2022 by maturing into not just an all-rounder but one able to very much impress now and then.
Lightning when he was fast and consistent when he was (only a little) slower, it’s proof that sometimes success isn’t instant but that hard work often pays off.
His reward is an almost unbelievable Repsol Honda seat for next year that probably won’t deliver the same results but that will allow him to further apply that work ethic with potentially further-reaching consequences.
4 Brad Binder
It’s hard to tell if fourth is a good year or a bad year for Binder!
It’s clear that his KTM is a rapidly-improving bike now, and he certainly took the opportunity to capitalise on that with a string of strong podiums.
But he also failed to win a Sunday race, missed out on third in the championship and made more than his fair share of silly errors as well (often involving last-lap track limit penalties).
Definitely a mixed season, but one that tracks well for the future should KTM’s rise continue on a similar trajectory.
3 Marco Bezzecchi
Coming into 2023, we expected big things from Marco Bezzecchi, with Bastianini’s sophomore performances in 2022 setting the benchmark for the VR46 Ducati rider - a benchmark Bezzecchi lived up to.
A multiple-time race winner and perhaps somewhat unlikely early title contender, the young Italian had an excellent second campaign of his own, albeit one dampened by a late-season training injury.
There’s still some work to do in making himself an all-round contender, but 2023 showed that he is absolutely destined for factory status in the near future.
2 Jorge Martin
He doesn't top this ranking - but there was a good stretch of the season where Jorge Martin was showing himself as the absolute fastest rider on the grid, with the shorter the distance the better.
The undisputed king of sprint races and still a qualifying master, the thing that ultimately let him down was his inability to master the art of managing longer-distance races on Sundays.
He showed signs of learning as the year progressed, but there’s obviously still work to be done, and that relative inexperience is something that Bagnaia was able to take maximum advantage from.
1 Pecco Bagnaia
If there’s one attribute to define Bagnaia’s second title success in two years (especially compared to the year before), it’s his composure.
It wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination an easy season for the Italian, especially in the latter stages - but while it would have been easy to lose his cool and get flustered (something we’d almost have expected from him in past years), he showed no such weakness this time around.
As a result, he wasn’t always the fastest but was normally the smartest guy on the grid, and that paid off over the course of a long, hard year.