8 - Marco Simoncelli
Even good friend Valentino Rossi was concerned about Marco Simoncelli's chances at the start of his first MotoGP season, but by the end of the year the former 250cc world champion Simoncelli was occasionally battling with Rossi for track position.
Rossi had good reason to worry before the season: Simoncelli suffered a series of big accidents during testing, one of which required a hospital visit at Sepang, and had also been off the pace.
How off the pace? Simoncelli was 17th and last in the final pre-season test at Qatar.
But when the racing began the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider raised his game, finishing eleventh on his MotoGP debut at Losail and consistently improving thereafter.
Simoncelli claimed his first double-digit points with sixth place at round eight and a strong end to the season saw four top-six finishes from the last five races.
Simoncelli missed out on a podium by just a fraction of a second to factory Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso at Estoril, then finished his rookie season with a debut front row start at Valencia.
Although he didn't quite stand on the podium, Simoncelli finished eighth in the world championship, making him the leading satellite Honda team rider (technically he had a factory spec RCV) and he was second best in the Rookie of the Year contest behind Ben Spies.
Simoncelli was, however, easily the strongest of the final intake of 250cc graduates, finishing four places and 35 points higher than next best Hector Barbera.
Statistics - Marco Simoncelli:
San Carlo Honda Gresini
18 (out of 18)
Rookie of the Year position:
2nd (out of 6)
Crash.net's Top 10 MotoGP riders of 2010:
8. Marco Simoncelli
9. Randy de Puniet
10. Alvaro Bautista