Motorsport.com's Top 10 MotoGP riders of 2016

Nine different winners over the course of the year means the 2016 MotoGP season will go down in history - but who were the top performers across the 18-round campaign? Our international panel gives their verdict.

The panel

 Oriol Puigdemont (OP) - Group MotoGP Editor

 Jamie Klein (JK) - UK Editor

 Valentin Khorounzhiy (VK) - News Editor

 Lena Buffa (LB) - Head of MotoGP content, France

 Matteo Nugnes (MN) - Head of MotoGP content, Italy

 Toni Boerner (TB) - Head of MotoGP content, Germany

 Scherazade Mulia Saraswati (SMS) - Head of MotoGP content, Indonesia

Honourable mentions

 Danilo Petrucci 

Pramac Ducati, 14th 

VK: Rather inconsistent and occasionally too aggressive, Petrucci got a fair bit of deserved flak for his clashes with Laverty and teammate Redding. But he did show flashes of superb speed – and deserves credit for how quickly he managed to get back up to form after his early-season injury.

 Alvaro Bautista

Aprilia, 12th

OP: Bautista clearly demonstrated the improvements made by Aprilia in terms of performance, especially in the second part of the season, the Spaniard impressively finishing inside the top 10 at six of the last seven rounds.

 Jack Miller

Marc VDS Honda, 18th (1 win)

TB: The highlight of Miller's year, for sure, was Assen, when he became the first non-factory rider to win a MotoGP race since Toni Elias in Estoril 2006. Apart from that, the Australian's season was very unlucky – especially considering how many injuries he picked up.

10.  Pol Espargaro

Tech 3 Yamaha, 8th 

Pol Espargaro, Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Pol Espargaro, Monster Yamaha Tech 3

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

JK: Came into the season with a point to prove after his 2015 drubbing at the hands of Tech 3 teammate Bradley Smith; even more so once the Briton sealed a factory KTM contract on the eve of the first race. But Espargaro's response was resounding: seven top-six finishes (versus none for Smith) and a points tally more than twice of that of his rival, who he joins at KTM in 2017.

VK: There is no headline-making result to remember Espargaro's final Tech 3 season by, yet the overall picture is that of a quality campaign, with only Marquez and Vinales posting more points-scoring finishes. Unlike those two, Espargaro never punched well above his team's weight, but he did enough.

LB: Taking advantage of new tyres and the standard ECU, the Spaniard was back ahead of Smith, reversing the trend of 2015. He was the leading private entrant in the championship before the emergence of Crutchlow late in the year, and even helped out with Yamaha's manufacturers' challenge on the occasions when both Lorenzo and Rossi failed.

9.  Dani Pedrosa

Repsol Honda, 6th (1 win)

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

JK: It's hard not to feel for Pedrosa after a toiling season that saw the pint-sized Spaniard keep up his record of taking at least one win per year at Misano - a rare occasion where his small stature, which often prevented him from getting the necessary temperature into the tyres, worked in his favour. Breaking his collarbone in Japan merely cemented 2016 as a year to forget as fast as possible.

TB: Struggled with the new rules, as well as injuries, resulting in a disappointing sixth in the championship despite his Misano win. Never before has Pedrosa had such a bad season; since joining MotoGP in 2006 he has never had so few podiums and has never been lower than fifth overall.

SMS: It seems that a season never goes by now where Pedrosa doesn't get injured. Even so, Honda clearly still has faith in him after extending his factory contract for the next two years, and he showed at Misano in his entertaining battle with Rossi that there's plenty of fight left in him yet.

8.  Hector Barbera

Avintia Ducati, 10th

Hector Barbera, Avintia Racing
Hector Barbera, Avintia Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

OP: This was Barbera's best season in MotoGP. The Avintia rider proved one of the most consistent performers on the grid all year, which deservedly gave him the chance to jump on the official Ducati in Japan and Australia when Iannone was injured.

LB: With his two-year old Desmosedici, Barbera took a front-row start for the first time in four years, had three top-five finishes in race and scored the best result of his career (4th) in Malaysia. The leading Ducati rider in the standings at the halfway point of the championship, he lost ground at the end of the summer, but still had his best season ever.

MN: Was the best Ducati rider in the points for much of the season, but failed to make the most of his two-race stint aboard the factory Desmosedici. Still, ending the year in the top 10 on a bike that's two years old is no mean feat.

7.  Andrea Iannone

Ducati, 9th (1 win)

Andrea Iannone, Ducati Team
Andrea Iannone, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

JK: With the possible exception of Miller, nobody else had quite such a roller-coaster of a year as Iannone. The highs - Austria and Valencia being the highlights - were as impressive ever, but the lows undoubtedly took some of the sheen off the reputation of a rider who seemed poised to join the elite club of 'aliens' at the end of last year.

VK: A DNF rate over 40 percent is pretty bad, made even worse when you recall the Dovizioso and Lorenzo incidents. His approach and his demeanour suggest he just tends to take too many risks – although when the Italian gets the balance right, he is devastatingly fast.

SMS: Will Ducati come to regret its decision to let Iannone go? There were plenty of times when 'The Maniac' was faster than his teammate aboard the Desmosedici GP16, not least of all when he took his first victory at Red Bull Ring, although injury curtailed his season thereafter.

6.  Andrea Dovizioso

Ducati, 5th (1 win)

Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team
Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

OP: Despite not being as sharp as some others, Dovi was able to get his first win since 2009 in tricky conditions at Sepang, and was very consistent on the Ducati. Bear in mind also that he lost a lot of points at Argentina and Austin, where he was taken out by Iannone and Pedrosa respectively.

VK: There are faster riders in MotoGP, and there are more consistent riders in MotoGP, but Dovizioso is still hanging on to a top ride because he scores very high on both parameters. He's also clearly played a major part in Ducati's continuous progress – and deserves to reap the rewards.

LB: Emerged as the leader at Ducati thanks to his foresight and ironclad commitment. Always looking for improvement, he didn't let his bad luck get him down, remaining a regular podium contender even when tyre changes didn't play into his hands. And then there was the relief of his comeback to victory, in Sepang, just in time to reaffirm his winning potential before Lorenzo's arrival.

5.  Cal Crutchlow

LCR Honda, 6th (2 wins)

Cal Crutchlow, Team LCR Honda almost crash
Cal Crutchlow, Team LCR Honda almost crash

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

OP: After a very poor start to the year, scoring only five points in the first five races, Crutchlow responded in the best possible way in the second part of the calendar with his wins at Brno and Phillip Island. He also played a vital part in the evolution of the Honda bike through the season. 

MN: Two victories are an incredible achievement for a satellite rider, and to these the British rider added a pole position and two more visits to the podium. Perhaps this means he would have deserved the chance to join HRC in 2017. 

TB: Since the arrival of Willow, his little baby, Crutchlow has completely changed his attitude, something borne out by his results. His two wins of the season made him equal third-best rider of the year in that department, and firmly silenced the many who had doubted he would ever win in MotoGP.

4.  Jorge Lorenzo

Yamaha, 3rd (4 wins)

Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing
Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Yamaha MotoGP

OP: Last year’s champion suffered like nobody else because of the changes to the Michelin tyres during the season, and his confidence dropped a lot, both in dry and wet conditions. Now he faces his biggest challenge yet in swapping his Yamaha for a Ducati in 2017.

VK: Was there another competitor in 2016-spec MotoGP who could smash the lap record and dominate proceedings on one weekend and then trudge along off the pace on another? No MotoGP rider is better than an in-form Jorge Lorenzo, but a lack of confidence both in the rain and often even on slick Michelins meant Lorenzo's good outings simply weren't frequent enough for a title challenge.

MN: If the Yamaha and the Michelin tyres give him the feeling he needs, Lorenzo is almost unstoppable. The problem is that it doesn't take a lot for him to lose that feeling, and especially in the wet he posted some poor results. Much more was expected of him in his final year at Yamaha.

3.  Maverick Vinales

Suzuki, 4th (1 win)

Maverick Viñales, Team Suzuki MotoGP
Maverick Viñales, Team Suzuki MotoGP

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

JK: The warning signs were there in the second half of his rookie season, and Vinales delivered on that promise with aplomb in 2016 as he blew Suzuki stablemate Aleix Espargaro out of the water and allowed Suzuki to scale heights not seen since the turn of the century. The first dry-weather win for the Japanese marque since 2000 at Silverstone was merely the icing on a very impressive 2016 cake.

LB: Vinales' impressive first MotoGP season laid the foundations on which he built a campaign that confirmed his rising star status. After excelling in winter testing, he maintained his stature of natural leader of the young Suzuki team, and was rewarded with his first podiums and an indisputable maiden win. In just two years, he has clearly marked himself out as a potential future champion.

SMS: There’s no doubt that Suzuki GSX-RR was a true weapon in the hands of Vinales. Not only did the Spaniard take victory at Silverstone, he was a regular threat to the established top riders during qualifying. That said, Vinales still needs to prove his consistency over a race distance and his racecraft if he is to be a threat to Rossi in 2017.

2.  Valentino Rossi

Yamaha, 2nd (2 wins)

Second place Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Second place Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

OP: He may be 37 years old, but his ambition and hunger are like that of a rookie. Rossi always raced at full attack, but he made too many mistakes to be a serious threat to Marquez in the title race.

JK: It's ironic that Rossi, after losing the title to Lorenzo despite a near enough error-free 2015 campaign, found the extra speed he needed in 2016, but while also making the critical errors that rendered a title charge all but impossible by the summer break. Still, he handled the Michelin transition better than most, and proved yet again he remains a force to be reckoned with.

MN: The best year for Rossi in recent times in terms of pure speed, but it was still not enough to truly challenge for a 10th title. Made few errors, but these almost always came during the races, something he paid dearly for.

TBPrior to the season, I did not expect Rossi to win a single race under normal conditions, but he surprised me by doing it twice, in Jerez and Catalunya. Given his age and the runner-up spot in the standings, he has to be number one in my list – even though he made mistakes, like in Assen.

SMS: After the huge disappointment of losing the title in 2015, Rossi looked more confident and more motivated than ever in 2016. Some unnecessary mistakes hurt his challenge, but the good thing is that 'The Doctor' proved that 37 years of age is just a number.

1.  Marc Marquez

Honda, 1st (5 wins)

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose Photography

VK: A lot will be made of how Marquez outsmarted and out-thought his rivals in the title fight, but the championship wouldn't have been possible without him being a preposterously fast superhuman. In 2016, there was no MotoGP rider anywhere near as good – and arguably no champion anywhere near as deserving in all of motorsport.

LB: Crashed a lot during practices, but made very few mistakes in races (only once before sealing the title) and was clever enough to settle for lesser results when the win wasn't possible. Step-by-step, he capitalised on his consistency and on Honda's progress to snatch the title with three races to go.

MN: The deserving champion - made the most of just about every opportunity he had to close out the title, and from the start of the year clearly shone aboard a Honda inferior to the opposition.

TB: Learned from the mistakes of 2015, although this was nothing less than expected given the rapid progression he has shown through out his career so far. Last year was the character-building season every big star has to go through, and Marquez mastered it with bravura. 

SMS: After struggling during pre-season testing, where the RC213V had major problems under acceleration, Marquez more than made up for the deficit of his machinery. Showed his maturity and adaptability with his well-documented new approach, his calmness ultimately paying big dividends.

Complete rankings:

RiderOPJKVKLBMNTBSMSTotal
 Marquez 10 10 10 10 10 9 10 69
 Rossi 8 8 9 9 7 10 9 60
 Vinales 9 9 8 8 9 7 7 57
 Lorenzo 7 7 7 7 6 4 8 46
 Crutchlow 6 6 5 5 8 8 5 43
 Dovizioso 4 5 6 6 5   4 30
 Iannone 3 4 3 4 4 1 6 26
 Barbera 5     3 1 6 1 16
 Pedrosa   2 2 2 2 3 3 14
 P Espargaro   3 4 1   2 2 12
 Miller 2 1     3 5   11
 Bautista 1             1
 Petrucci     1         1

Top 10 awarded points on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Hector Barbera , Andrea Dovizioso , Cal Crutchlow , Dani Pedrosa , Marc Marquez , Pol Espargaro , Andrea Iannone , Jack Miller , Maverick Viñales
Article type Special feature