Leading into this weekend's final round in Brazil, Vettel had already won eleven out of eighteen rounds from fourteen pole positions. As a result he'd been crowned champion early on, and helped secure the constructors' title for his Red Bull Racing team as well. But would the young champ – the youngest multiple champion in F1 history, in fact – be able to tie up the season in as grand a style as he'd displayed all year? Follow the jump to find out.
The young German set a new record this weekend at Interlagos, where he claimed his fifteenth pole position this season. Beside him qualified his wingman Mark Webber, followed by the McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were separated by Mercedes GP's Nico Rosberg, with Renault's Bruno Senna ninth, Michael Schumacher tenth, Force India's Paul di Resta eleventh and Williams' Rubens Barrichello –the final of three Brazilians lining up in front of their home crowd for what could prove his last race – in twelfth.
Off the line Vettel pulled away smartly as Alonso began working his way forward, taking fourth from Hamilton. Di Resta briefly passed Schumacher only for the elder champion to retake his junior Mercedes protege. Barrichello meanwhile dropped from twelfth to an unfortunate 20th.
Ten laps in Schumacher collided with Senna, leaving the Mercedes crippled by a puncture and the Renault with a damaged front wing. The stewards would later fault Senna for the incident, handing him a drive-through penalty.
Meanwhile up front Alonso took third from Button as Webber began to whittle away at his team-mate's lead. Vettel, it seemed, was suffering from gearbox problems that initially forced him to short-shift only in second but later spread to all seven ratios.
Alonso and Hamilton then pitted in tandem, the Ferrari coming out ahead of the McLaren, with Button sandwiched in between. Vettel then pitted from the lead to rejoin third, leaving Massa at the front. After Webber pitted, Vettel retook the lead from Massa who then pitted to rejoin down in sixth.
After Glock was forced to retire his Virgin on lap 23, Vettel had to yield to his gearbox problems and to his wingman Webber for the lead. Hamilton, who'd been hounding Massa all along, then retired trackside with similar drivetrain difficulties.
In the closing laps Button had zeroed in on Alonso and used the DRS wing to pass, taking the podium finish away from the Spaniard. The McLaren driver wouldn't quite manage to catch up with Vettel, but despite Webber's win, it was still enough for the Brit to secure second place in the final drivers' standings for the season.
It was Webber's first win of the season, with Vettel second, Button third, Alonso fourth, Massa fifth, Sutil sixth, Rosberg seventh, Di Resta eighth, Kobayashi ninth and Petrov tenth.
The results finalize Vettel's championship, with Button second, Webber third, Alonso just a point behind in fourth, Hamilton trailing in fifth and Massa a distant sixth. With Red Bull at the top of the constructors' standings, McLaren took second, Ferrari third and Mercedes fourth. And so concludes one of the most dominated seasons in Formula One racing history. Will next season see Vettel and Red Bull make it a three-peat, or will a new challenger give them a run for their money? We'll just have to wait and see.