Sergio Perez surged to an all-time high in the Castrol EGDE Rankings after his outstanding drive in a remarkable Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Mexican came within a small mistake of his first ever grand prix victory, as bold calls in changeable conditions thrust him into a spectacular and unlikely fight for the lead with Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard had looked likely to drop behind Perez such was the latter's pace in the Sauber, but seven laps from the end - and within DRS range – he touched the curb on the approach to the back straight and ran wide, effectively ending his victory bid.
Second still represents Perez's best result in Formula 1, and even with his late slip it was Sauber's first podium as a non-manufacturer since Heinz-Harald Frentzen claimed third at the 2003 United States Grand Prix. It was also enough for him to jump 20 spots to an all-time high of 58th in the Rankings – a perfectly timed rise given the current rumors linking him to Felipe Massa's seat at Ferrari.
In holding off Perez, Alonso sealed his 28th grand prix victory to move fifth in the all-time list, behind only Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell.
Alonso also moved into an unlikely championship lead, and closed the gap to the Rankings's top four drivers: Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Of that quartet Vettel fared the worst in Malaysia, sliding to his lowest overall points total since May last year.
The German effectively counted the cost of his 2011 brilliance – when he won from pole – as he came home in 11th and surrendered a number of Rankings points. He remains comfortably ahead of Webber however, even if he currently trails the Australian in the championship.
Webber managed to edge away slightly from Button, whose race was undone by contact with Narain Karthikeyan's HRT. The Briton remains within a win of displacing Webber and moving into second, but equally could drop behind teammate Hamilton should results fall in favor of the 2008 World Champion in China.
Having finished eighth at Sepang last year, Hamilton's return of third – while disappointing, given it was once again preceded by pole – allowed him to close the gap to Button, Webber and Vettel.
Behind the lead five (and aside from Perez) the big gainer was Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, who split the two Force Indias as he finished eighth. That promoted him 21 places to 103rd, on the coat-tails of teammate Daniel Ricciardo (99) who broke into the top 100 for the very first time following his 12th place finish at Sepang.
Moving in the opposite direction, Felipe Massa (20) lost two spots following another miserable showing, while Romain Grosjean's failure to make it past three laps was reflected in a fall of nine places to 78th.
To see the full Rankings, visit www.castroledgerankings.com.