Grids were down in the Formula 3 European Championship in 2016, but there was superb depth among the field that did compete, as evidenced by the fact that 11 different drivers won races in a series that does not rely on the artificiality of reversed grids.
Williams Formula 1 bound Lance Stroll did the business with Prema Powerteam, recovering from an uncertain start to take a resounding title with four races to spare - all of which he won with the pressure off.
But he wasn't the only standout from F3 2016...
10 RALF ARON
Team: Prema Powerteam
The amiable scarf-clad Estonian looked very good early in the season with Prema, and became the first F3 rookie to win a race in 2016.
After that he went on a slump before pulling himself back to an upward trajectory at the end. Aron explained that as the first two race weekends were preceded by official tests it was easier for the rookies to perform initially, but that when this luxury disappeared it became tougher.
He added that during a poor run of results he looked at the rookie points and was shocked to find he was still second, so realised all the newcomers were affected. There is an element of truth to this, but it's also fair to say he went backwards too often in mid-season races.
Late-season form suggests it's all coming together and he'd be an ace if he returns in 2017.
9 BEN BARNICOAT
Team: Hitech GP
Two wins in the wet early in the season illustrated the ability of the East Midlander, but perversely the brighter days were the darker ones for him.
Barnicoat started off impressively, chasing Hitech team-mate Russell home for fourth place in the Paul Ricard opener, but he unwittingly sparked a chain-reaction shunt in race two, and it would not be the last time he was involved in incidents.
Regardless of the shunts - and you'd have to say they were probably more a legacy of underperforming in qualifying and being in the midfield scrum - he's an absolutely super bloke, but some say he needs to 'get a bit of bastard' in him.
Uncertainty over his future certainly won't have helped the Racing Steps protege's state of mind late in the season, and that's a shame because with the right breaks he'd make an excellent professional racer.
8 ANTHOINE HUBERT
Team: Van Amersfoort Racing
A programme that came together late with Van Amersfoort Racing meant this friendly, intelligent Frenchman had little preparation.
After two years on those lovely Michelins in Formula Renault 2.0 it took time to adjust to the harder F3 Hankooks. He struggled to nail a lap in qualifying early in the season; later in the year he could sometimes outqualify team-mate Callum Ilott - no mean feat - but would plateau a little too early in the weekend.
He's working on trying to get a deal together to stay in F3 for 2017, and the experience from this year and a proper winter testing programme would make him a strong contender.
Certainly, his affability and team spirit would make him a great guy to have around to help French-Canadian Kami Laliberte, who graduates to F3 in 2017 and whose father invests heavily in the team.
7 SERGIO SETTE CAMARA
Wins: 0 (best result 2nd)
The only driver in our top 10 never to have won an F3 race; yet paradoxically, he's unquestionably one of the fastest drivers on the grid.
Hopes were high for the Brazilian in his second year with Motopark, and a new place on the Red Bull junior programme should have given him momentum. The team expected him to lead its charge - and when you consider Joel Eriksson was on the books, that shows how highly he was rated.
But there seems to be a serious inconsistency problem. In 2016 Sette Camara was capable of being fastest in qualifying, but dumped to 11th on the grid with an engine-change grid penalty, and then a couple of hours later, penalty free, labouring to 14th for no apparent reason.
A baffling case, but great latent talent. Another year at this level should bring out the best in him, although whether that's in F3 or GP3 remains to be seen.
6 NICK CASSIDY
Team: Prema Powerteam
It's a measure of the deservedly high reputation of the Kiwi that a season netting him fourth in the points should be viewed as a disappointment.
It's also a reflection of the high quality of the top six that he holds this position in our rankings. Certainly there was a very long run of bad luck: his tyres were so bad at the Hungaroring that in one race they were gone even after the recce laps to the grid; he had a down-on-power engine at the Red Bull Ring; and he had gearbox failure at the Norisring in qualifying.
Also, Cassidy was jetting between Europe and his factory Super GT programme with Lexus in Japan. Add to that the fact that, within Prema, Cassidy was pretty much on his own with no family or friend entourages around (except when his mate, ex-GP3 racer Melville McKee, dropped in to cheer him on).
On the other hand, errors at Paul Ricard and the Hungaroring cost him wins. This season he didn't quite do what we know he can do.
5 MAXIMILIAN GUNTHER
Team: Prema Powerteam
This amazingly-fast German has a great skill and touch in quick corners, and took a raft of five consecutive poles early in the season in Prema's ex-Felix Rosenqvist 2015 title-winning car.
But despite finishing runner-up in the points his season was blighted by a frustrating inconsistency. His speed is beyond doubt, but he is perhaps not the strongest driver mentally and there were several mistakes.
It's like if he were a singer, you'd always need to book him plenty of studio hours because you'd know he wouldn't nail the first take but would do something wonderful if you gave him enough time.
Four wins in 2016 prove that there's a fantastic driver here who just needs the edges smoothing. That could come through a further year in F3, although he does apparently have GP2 ambitions.
4 JOEL ERIKSSON
Even when fellow rookies Aron, Barnicoat and Hubert beat him to their maiden wins, Eriksson stood out as the best newcomer in 2016.
His Motopark car looked alive on the track, and it was just a question of honing things, getting everything right in qualifying, because the young Swede is a terrific racer. There's a refreshing honesty and bullshit-free aura around him, and even if he struggled in qualifying you could rely on him to make progress in races - even after almost rolling in a Turn 1 pile-up at Ricard!
That belated first win came at Spa in late July (followed by a Masters of F3 success), by which time Eriksson was already making himself popular with BMW as a DTM junior. He's the real deal, and one more year in F3 would make him a polished talent ready to take the DTM by storm.
3 CALLUM ILOTT
Team: Van Amersfoort Racing
The end of the season was a bit of a disaster for the Brit and Van Amersfoort Racing, best summed up by losing a Hockenheim podium because of insufficient fuel for a sample.
That makes it easy to forget that up until July he was more or less Stroll's biggest challenger. The spectacular driving style everyone enjoyed in 2015 was more controlled in '16 but Ilott still gets it lit when necessary - just not at every corner anymore.
Two wins went his way, but there were other times - including a qualifying error in Pau and his embarrassing mistake at the Norisring - when he could have added to that tally.
There was a bit of head-scratching late in the year and perhaps his confidence was dented, but Ilott will be a red-hot title contender if, as expected, he returns in '17, because there are some who believe that no one beats him on raw talent.
2 GEORGE RUSSELL
Team: Hitech GP
If it hadn't been for a litany of misfortunes and disasters, Russell might have been not too far adrift of a title tilt.
There seemed to be almost an air of conspiracy theory around Russell and Hitech GP early in the year when stewards' decisions and on-track antics invariably went against them - he even thought Cassidy was deliberately slowing him in qualifying at the Hungaroring to help team-mate Stroll, only for it to transpire that the Kiwi was suffering from the rogue batch of Hankook tyres that would also hobble Russell in race one.
He bounced back in style to win in Pau, and although he had a further victory at Spa he felt the car was never as good again until the final two events, when tyre strategy in qualifying at Imola and an engine failure at Hockenheim hampered him.
He did make the occasional error, which is why he was #2 to Stroll in this list even before the champ's end-of-season tour de force. A great driver though, he is tipped to switch to GP3 and would be a title favourite.
1 LANCE STROLL
Team: Prema Powerteam
There were a couple of early-season hiccups, when he didn't quite get on it in qualifying, but once Stroll kicked into gear he was unstoppable.
Even then, we didn't see him at his best until the last two weekends, when the pressure was off - freed from the shackles of a championship chase, his driving at Imola and Hockenheim was beautiful and effective, and his racing at the final round feistier than we'd seen since his dark days of mid-2015.
By every metric he was on top: an almost-50% strike rate of wins and poles; the best average of weekend fastest laps; number one on mean and median-average supergrids; best qualifying record; best race fastest laps record.
Money buys a lot but Stroll transcended that: by the time the season finished people were talking about his ability, not his family's wealth.
The other Red Bull junior, Niko Kari, above, was the best driver to miss out on our top 10 after an up-and-down season. On his day he was mega - and deserved a win at Imola - but he had far too many incidents and was on first-name terms with the race stewards in no time. Loads of talent, but a lot of polish required still.
Kari's Motopark team-mate Guan Yu Zhou is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy and his spectacular driving style entertained. Two early-season podiums promised much but in reality he wasn't quite quick enough in qualifying, although he generally raced well.
'Mucke' is the German word for 'fly' (as in the insect), but there wasn't much of a buzz about Mucke Motorsport this year. Mikkel Jensen started his sophomore season with some good performances but, after a Spa podium, went into a trough of form. The Dane blamed the car; the team couldn't find anything wrong with it.
On the other side of the Mucke awning, David Beckmann joined the season at round three in Pau, just after celebrating his 16th birthday. He can be a bit lairy but he's brimming with raw talent, and plenty of teams are chasing him for 2017. Backed by 1981 Formula 2 privateer Bernd Brutschin, he's definitely one to watch.
Carlin didn't have a top-notch driver line-up. Alessio Lorandi, above, is good, but really needed a quick and experienced team-mate to guide him. At his best on circuits surrounded by barriers and gravel traps - he overdrives on Tilkedromes - Lorandi, who is mentored by ex-Life F1 test driver Franco Scapini, scored a superb win in Pau but threw in the towel in September.
Once Peter Li was ruled out of the rest of the season following his Red Bull Ring crash, Ryan Tveter was Carlin's other mainstay until he quit in August. A shame, because the likeable American loves his racing and is capable of good performances. Jake Hughes and Lando Norris provided Carlin with a massive boost when they were parachuted in for the Hockenheim finale and performed superbly.
Hitech's Nikita Mazepin had a lot to learn this year but didn't do badly, and starred in qualifying at Spa.
Also in this bracket were VAR pair Pedro Piquet and Harrison Newey, above. Both proved they could do it on occasion, and like Mazepin they are expected back in F3 for 2017, when consistent points should be the target.
Lastly, T-Sport had a tough year. An early switch from the Tomei/ThreeBond engine to the NBE didn't boost Arjun Maini's form and he was off to GP3 by mid-season. Ukyo Sasahara impressed the team with his verve and spirit on his two outings with the Tomei, but was never going to do much without a proper testing programme.