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Autosport Top 50 of 2023: #34 Raffaele Marciello

1st in GT World Challenge Europe, 1st in GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, 1st in FIA GT World Cup

Top 50 2023 dotcom34

Top 50 Drivers of 2023

Autosport's team of expert journalists got together to try to assess who were the top 50 drivers of 2023. Here are the results.

On his GT3 Mercedes swansong, Marciello was nothing if not consistent. The only driver to qualify in the top three at every GT World Challenge Europe Sprint round earned a record-extending 14th series pole at Misano after his Brands Hatch masterclass.

Key passes to win at Hockenheim emulated Marciello’s glorious fightback in the Paul Ricard 1000km Endurance Cup round. Overall and Endurance titles made up for Sprint defeat following his only error on Zandvoort’s slippery surface. Before joining BMW, the Nurburgring 24 Hours poleman departed with Macau domination.

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Five mega Marciello Mercedes moments

1. Spa 2017: Epic drive ushers Marciello towards works driver status

This was the drive that truly launched Marciello as a GT racing megastar. Had it not been for the 65-minute maximum stint lengths rule, the Swiss-born Italian could have won his maiden 24-hour race after switching from single-seaters to join Jerome Policand’s ASP squad. The car he shared with Michael Meadows and Edoardo Mortara had to be held for 37s to ensure he didn’t depart the pits with more than 65 minutes to go, and dropped from first to third.

“He was just amazing,” Policand told Autosport in 2020. “He did most of the race, I think he drove for nearly 14 hours so the maximum allowed by the rules.”

Marciello had to be helped from the podium to receive medical attention, but he’d sent a message that could not be ignored and was a Mercedes works driver in 2018.

2. Nurburgring 2018: Securing the Sprint title despite an “average car”

Policand (middle) has fond memories of the 2018 Nurburgring weekend where Marciello and Meadows overturned a pre-event points deficit despite an average car

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Policand (middle) has fond memories of the 2018 Nurburgring weekend where Marciello and Meadows overturned a pre-event points deficit despite an average car

Marciello won the Blancpain GT Sprint title for ASP alongside Meadows in 2018 after a tense three-way fight with Audi and Lamborghini. His first major accolade in GT racing makes the list because of a revelation Policand made in 2020 – namely, that the ASP team had a merely “average car” that weekend.

After Meadows and Marciello had finished fourth in the opener, Marciello wrestled his car to the front row for race two alongside the similar Black Falcon machine of Luca Stolz. He couldn’t get by, but remained close enough that Meadows rejoined from the stops ahead of Hubert Haupt for a win that – thanks to Alex Riberas going off trying to recover from a qualifying crash for Christopher Mies – edged them ahead in the title race.

“To be honest our car was not good enough to win the race, we were average,” Policand said.

3. Macau 2019: Inch-perfect drive earns World Cup spoils

After a lengthy hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Marciello emphatically won the first GT World Cup held at Macau since 2019 in November. But although he led all but one session in his Landgraf-run Merc, his success four years prior with GruppeM was arguably more impressive.

Success at the track had eluded him in Formula 3, then in 2017 he’d retired while running second with radiator damage after contact with Augusto Farfus’s BMW, and understeered into the wall in 2018 while pressuring Farfus for the lead. But he made no mistake in 2019.

His pole margin was only 0.303s (it had been 0.557s in 2018) but he withstood race-long pressure from the Porsches of Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber to win. His final margin of 3.8s is misleading as Bamber let Vanthoor through on the final lap, having earlier been ushered past to have a crack at Marciello's defences. By contrast, in 2023, a gearshift problem for tail-gunner Maro Engel at a restart meant Mortara’s Audi never got close to threatening.

4. Barcelona 2020: Trusting judgement yields qualifying beatdown

In changeable conditions for the 2020 Barcelona Sprint, Marciello was simply stunning in qualifying

Photo by: SRO

In changeable conditions for the 2020 Barcelona Sprint, Marciello was simply stunning in qualifying

On a couple of occasions when conditions have been changeable, Marciello proved he could be the difference-maker. One of these came at Zandvoort in the 2022 GT World Challenge Sprint round, when he clinched pole by 0.567s over Vincent Abril’s McLaren. But two years prior for the Barcelona Sprint, he’d been a whopping 0.675s to the good over Kelvin van der Linde’s Audi for race three. Naturally, it was converted to victory with Timur Boguslavskiy.

“It was very early in the morning, the track was still damp so it means it was drying,” recounted Policand in 2020. “As the lap times were improving by a few tenths every lap, he has the confidence to do a hot lap so he takes the decision to put the new tyres [on] at the very last minute when the track was at its best.

“But he has only one chance to do it, not two. If he does a mistake, maybe we could be P7 or P8, or even a red flag could destroy the session. But he just made it.”

5. Spa 2022: A 24-hour race win at last

Marciello claimed pole three years running at the Spa 24 Hours between 2020 and 2022, but saw his hopes dashed by mechanical maladies in 2020 (exploded brake disc) and 2021 (broken damper). There was to be no denying the ASP car he shared with Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella in 2022 however and Marciello was in the thick of the fight again.

The race came down to an intra-Mercedes fight with GetSpeed’s Stolz, Maximilian Gotz and Steijn Schothorst, and ASP was playing catchup. Marciello needed two attempts to pass on Stolz at La Source, having been edged into the gravel on his first go, before pulling clear to give Policand a long-awaited outright victory after 11 years of trying.

“Spa, he did a great weekend,” he reflected in 2022. “In the shootout, for example I don’t think we have the best car overall in terms of speed. With a normal quali, I think we will be between three and fifth.”

 
It was a long time coming but Marciello's role in winning the Spa 24 Hours in 2022 was vital to the team's success

Photo by: SRO

It was a long time coming but Marciello's role in winning the Spa 24 Hours in 2022 was vital to the team's success

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