Sebastian Vettel became the youngest triple champion in Formula One history on Sunday when he finished sixth behind the victorious Jenson Button in a tumultuous Brazilian Grand Prix.
The 25-year-old German, who was involved in an opening lap collision, made light of the damage to his Red Bull car as he fought through the field in a dramatic race run in treacherous rain-swept conditions at the Interlagos circuit.
Vettel's only title rival, two-time champion Spaniard Fernnando Alonso, finished a fine second after a courageous drive for Ferrari, but it was not enough to overhaul a pre-race 13-points deficit as his German rival won the crown by just three points.
The race was littered with accidents and incidents and ended behind a Safety Car with Vettel bringing his car home in the rain in tears, unable to respond to the screamed congratulations from Red Bull team chief Christian Horner.
Vettel became only the third driver in Formula One history to win three successive titles, equalling the feats of the great Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and his own childhood idol Michael Schumacher, who finished seventh for Mercedes in his final race before retiring.
Alonso's Ferrari team-mate, local hero Brazilian Felipe Massa, drove brilliantly to finish third ahead of Australian Mark Webber in the second Red Bull and German Nico Hulkenberg of Force India.
Hulkenberg played a prominent role in the race, not only leading for a spell but also crashing into Lewis Hamilton's McLaren to wreck the Briton's hopes of a triumphant conclusion to his career with the British team just when he looked sure of winning.
Vettel was sixth, Schumacher seventh in his last race before retirment and Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne eighth for Toro Rosso ahead of Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber and Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus.
Vettel, whose Red Bull team took a third constructors' championship in succession last weekend in Texas, finished with 281 points and Alonso with 278.
It was Briton Button's first win in Brazil, his third of the season and the 15th of his career.