Hamilton surges into second as Red Bull duo slip
Lewis Hamilton surged into second place in the Castrol EDGE Rankings following his breakthrough victory at Monza.
The Briton had never beaten his team-mate at the Italian circuit heading into this weekend, but gained the ascendancy in qualifying and was never seriously challenged in the race.
Victory was enough to send him soaring three places and into second.
It is the first time in almost 12 months he has been so high – and only the third time in the past three years he has broken into the top two spots.
The last time Hamilton led the Rankings was March 2009.
A return to the top is becoming increasingly likely however, as Red Bull struggles to match its 2011 dominance.
While that has led to Vettel’s massive points total slowly dwindling over the 2012 season, the German suffered a massive blow at Monza as he retired due to an alternator failure.
He points loss was greater even that Hamilton’s gains, with the Briton now effectively within two race wins of Vettel in the Rankings.
The further bad news for Vettel is that he defends huge totals over the coming fives races, corresponding to a run of four victories and one podium between Italy and India last year.
Hamilton conversely boasts a poorer record, meaning that he will continue to gain even if he and Vettel match each other exactly in the coming races.
While Hamilton’s rise came partly at the expense of Fernando Alonso – the Spaniard fell one spot to third despite his podium – the big loser was Mark Webber in the second Red Bull.
An underwhelming weekend concluded with a retirement due to flat spots, meaning Webber – like Vettel – lost massive points.
That told as he dropped behind Jenson Button, who also fell back due to his own retirement while running second.
Button did at least have the benefit of a front-row qualifying berth to prop up his Rankings total, helping him hang on to fourth.
There could be further bad news for Webber this weekend in the shape of eight-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb.
Loeb competes in Rally Great Britain this weekend, and will improve upon his current Rankings total should he claim victory – raising the prospect of the Frenchman breaking into the top five for the first time in 12 months.
Outside the top quintet, Felipe Massa’s position as the seventh-highest ranked driver came under threat despite a strong drive in Ferrari’s home grand prix.
Massa started third and effectively held position for much of the race, although he was unable – or not inclined – to prevent team-mate Alonso passing him for what became the final podium spot.
Despite that Massa didn’t rise from 26th in the Rankings, leaving him increasingly vulnerable to the rapidly-closing Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez.
The latter’s late rise to second equalled the magnitude of Hamilton’s progress out front, and made him one of the drivers of the day.
It also helped him improve six spots to an all-time high of 31st.
He remains behind Raikkonen however, as the Finn gained seven places to go 29th.
The last time he was inside the Rankings top 20 was May 2010.