The 2023 MotoGP season is finally done and dusted, and it’s reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia who has once again emerged as champion, not just by finishing ahead of title rival Jorge Martin but by doing it in fine form, taking the Valencian Grand Prix victory on Sunday to wrap up his season.
However, Martin’s own campaign came to a less heroic end, wiping out Marc Marquez in the latter's final Honda race and ending the day in the gravel - a fate that was shared by plenty of their rivals on a day that saw multiple riders misjudge conditions and throw away the chance to end their 2023 seasons on a high.
And then there were the penalties that came into play, wiping out the great results of others well after the chequered flag had fallen for the final time this season.
It's all absolutely reflected in our ranking of the grid, for the final time in 2023.
Scoring the riders 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.
1 Pecco Bagnaia
Qualifying: 2nd Sprint: 5th Race: 1st
What more can you say about the double world champion?
Pecco Bagnaia was able to first deliver an incredible qualifying performance amid extensive pressure from title rival Jorge Martin, then did exactly what he needed to do in the sprint without taking any risks, leaving him in a position to strike as soon as he was able to on Sunday.
Title success, underlined in bold with a victory. What more is there to ask for?
2 Fabio Di Giannantonio
Qualifying: 11th Sprint: 6th Race: 4th
Another weekend, another fantastic result from Fabio Di Giannantonio: one that, in this case, was important enough to secure him a ride for next season.
Demoted afterwards from second to fourth, no one’s taking away from the fact that he took an incredible last-lap fight to Pecco Bagnaia even as his fellow Ducati racer was trying to win a title in style.
Hopefully he can carry his new confidence into next year, because if he does, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
3 Raul Fernandez
Qualifying: 10th Sprint: 11th Race: 5th
For the longest time this year, Raul Fernandez has been threatening to deliver on his speed and turn it into results. The most recent of those hints came at Lusail last weekend, where he topped Friday’s sessions and made it through to Q2, and a good qualifying position in Valencia suggested that there was more pace coming on Sunday.
And, finally, he backed it up, not just taking his best-ever MotoGP finish but doing so as the top Aprilia rider. A great way to go into the winter break full of confidence.
4 Johann Zarco
Qualifying: 3rd Sprint: 9th Race: 2nd
For the past few weeks, there’s been a sense of Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco caring more about his team-mate Jorge Martin’s title ambitions than his own immediate performances.
But, with Martin down and out on Sunday and with Zarco’s gloves off to do what he may, the Frenchman was able to say farewell to his team with an excellent podium finish, one that got even better shortly after the race when Di Giannantonio was moved back two places.
An excellent end to his time with the team as he joins LCR Honda.
5 Brad Binder
Qualifying: 5th Sprint: 2nd Race: 3rd
Valencia was a bit of a strange one for Brad Binder considering that we’ve never really seen the Red Bull KTM rider make the sort of error that he did on Sunday in particular, a mistake that likely cost him a relatively easy race win.
Another good start to the weekend with a sprint podium and good momentum into Sunday looked set to break KTM’s disappointing lack of wins in 2023, but running wide was just enough to take him out of contention and force him to settle for a podium that only came an hour after the race when Di Giannantonio was handed an unexpected penalty.
6 Marc Marquez
Qualifying: 9th Sprint: 3rd Race: DNF
An emotional weekend for Marc Marquez as he prepared to leave the team that he’s essentially spent his entire adult life with, it just shows how important motivation and special occasions can be, even to a rider as permanently fired-up as the six-time MotoGP champion.
No one expected a sprint race podium from him on his current Honda at Valencia, and it’s a shame that we were robbed of seeing where he could have landed on Sunday if a collision with Jorge Martin hadn’t taken him out of the race rather aggressively.
7 Fabio Quartararo
Qualifying: 15th Sprint: DNF Race: 11th
Despite not seeing the chequered flag, Fabio Quartararo’s sprint race performance at Valencia might well be his best one yet, thanks to a great start and some aggressive riding early on in the race - something that bodes well for Yamaha’s future.
His Sunday outing was held back, unfortunately, by a 40ºC fever picked up overnight that limited his chances, but it’s another weekend where he showed a lot of potential remains to be unlocked from the M1.
8 Aleix Espargaro
Qualifying: 12th Sprint: 13th Race: 8th
Considering the injuries that Aleix Espargaro went into the weekend carrying - and considering that they weren't his own fault after he got t-boned by Miguel Oliveria last weekend in Qatar - a decent score in Sunday’s race in particular was a good end result.
Just caught out by physical condition at the end and dropping back through the pack a little as a result, it’s nonetheless hard to fault his weekend.
9 Lorenzo Savadori
Qualifying: 21st Sprint: 20th Race: 13th
Given he got thrown in at the deep end, spent the weekend riding a hybrid 2022-2023-2024 Aprilia RS-GP, and that his focus was almost entirely on development not results, for Aprilia test rider Lorenzo Savadori to come away with three points as he replaced the once-again-injured Oliveira is an excellent addition to the Italian’s CV (despite a track limits long-lap penalty) and certainly more than was expected when his last-minute ride was announced.
10 Alex Marquez
Qualifying: 8th Sprint: 8th Race: 6th
A relatively innocuous weekend for Alex Marquez where he ended up with solid if not fantastic results while never really getting much in the way of attention as he did so.
11 Franco Morbidelli
Qualifying: 19th Sprint: 18th Race: 7th
Not an amazing weekend to see off Franco Morbidelli’s time at Yamaha, but nonetheless not a terrible one either, and one that was very much on par with his best performances of a very difficult season onboard the M1.
He can walk away knowing that he’s given it his all, and while he might find things a tad easier next year at Pramac Ducati, the cherry on top of a satisfactory weekend should be beating his team-mate Quartararo for one last time, regardless of the circumstances that allowed it to happen.
12 Jorge Martin
Qualifying: 6th Sprint: 1st Race: DNF
To give him credit, Martin knew that the only way to win the title this weekend was to risk everything, which is exactly what he then proceeded to do on Sunday after a clear sprint race win set him up nicely.
However, the minute he made a rookie error in Bagnaia’s slipstream, it looked like he lost his cool completely, and the inevitable crash out of contention came not too long after.
Taking Marc Marquez with him (on a very emotionally-charged weekend for Marquez, too) was somewhat unnecessary, though, as was Martin’s prioritising of going back to his team after the incident instead of seeking out Marquez right away to check up on him.
13 Marco Bezzecchi
Qualifying: 7th Sprint: 7th Race: DNF
The crash that prematurely ended his race on the opening lap wasn’t Marco Bezzecchi’s fault (something he made abundantly clear after the race when fuming about Marc Marquez).
But even before the race-ending fall, it wasn’t exactly the most stellar weekend ever from the former title contender, who never quite got his act together - something that we’ve seen relatively often this year.
14 Pol Espargaro
Qualifying: 18th Sprint: 14th Race: 14th
Sure, he crashed in what may well be his last MotoGP race as a full-timer - but it’s the fact that he got back on his damaged machine and finished the race that Pol Espargaro’s outing will be remembered for.
A tough end to probably the worst season of his career, at least he came out of a very emotional day with a sight of the chequered flag.
15 Luca Marini
Qualifying: 17th Sprint: 17th Race: 9th
Luca Marini’s final weekend as a VR46 Ducati rider definitely went out with more of a whimper than a bang, with the newly-signed Repsol Honda racer very much just making up the numbers at Valencia (something that’ll be good practice for 2024).
He’s capable of far more, but on a weekend where other Ducatis were able to dominate, the Italian never really found himself in the mix, a situation compounded significantly by a disappointing qualifying that then set the stage for the rest of the weekend.
16 Taka Nakagami
Qualifying: 16th Sprint: 16th Race: 12th
The only Honda to finish the Sunday race, it was another relatively standard issue runout for Taka Nakagami, who these days has all the appearances of a permanent test rider wildcard taking significantly fewer risks to simply make sure that they see the chequered flag and gather a full race’s worth of data.
Points were a welcome surprise as he stayed on while plenty of others didn’t.
17 Alex Rins
Qualifying: 20th Sprint: 19th Race: DNF
A silly cooling-tyre crash felt very close to self-sabotage for Alex Rins, given that he’s still very much carrying his mid-season injuries and was, it seems, largely racing this weekend only to ensure he's less rusty when he jumps onto his new Yamaha on Tuesday for the first time.
Thankfully uninjured in the fall, it’s a fitting end to his brief time with LCR Honda.
18 Augusto Fernandez
Qualifying: 13th Sprint: 10th Race: DNF
Coming back to a track that he knows on a MotoGP bike, only the second time he’s done so in his rookie season, and with his personal development peaking in recent weekends, more was perhaps expected of Augusto Fernandez, especially after a decent sprint performance on Saturday.
However, in difficult conditions, experience is still key, and that’s what the Spaniard ran out of in Sunday’s main event.
19 Enea Bastianini
Qualifying: 14th Sprint: 15th Race: DNF
What looked to be a turnaround in form for Enea Bastianini after his Sepang victory unfortunately hasn’t exactly held up, and instead the Italian was once again left not just struggling at Valencia but in the gravel at the end of Sunday’s race after an unforced crash.
A disappointing end to a disappointing season, he now needs to walk away from 2023 and try to use the winter to recharge his batteries.
20 Maverick Vinales
Qualifying: 1st Sprint: 4th Race: 10th
Sometimes, it’s very hard to make sense of what’s going on in Maverick Vinales’ brain, and this weekend was no different.
Electing to run the medium Michelin rear tyre in the sprint when almost everyone else went for the soft option, he admitted that it was the wrong choice as his early race-leading pace was halted.
He then bizarrely elected to use the soft instead of the medium everyone else had switched to for Sunday’s long race. Fast at the start, his plummet through the field was inevitable in the end.
21 Jack Miller
Qualifying: 4th Sprint: 12th Race: DNF
Jack Miller is MotoGP’s master at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
He had everything in his hands to end the season on an absolute high at one of his best performances, and instead managed to make the sort of unforced, unnecessary error that’s become all too much the hallmark of his career.
Forgetting that a 3pm race start in late November makes for a cold track and cooling tyres, he got caught out - but he really should have known better.