Sebastian Vettel has become the youngest back-to-back and double world champion in Formula One history.
It was not with the glory he had hoped for with a victory in Japan as that honour went to Jenson Button, the in-form Briton taking the chequered flag for the third time this year. But Vettel at least finished on the podium at Suzuka with a third place to take the acclaim of the crowd.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was second and Lewis Hamilton was forced to settle for second best in his team again, finishing fifth behind Red Bull’s Mark Webber, with Michael Schumacher sixth in his Mercedes and Felipe Massa seventh.
Vettel now joins an elite club, becoming only the ninth driver to win successive titles along with Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jack Brabham, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen and Fernando Alonso.
Over the team radio, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: “Sebastian you’re the 2011 world champion. Well done.”
In reply, an emotional Vettel said: “Thank you so much every single one, every single one. We took nothing for granted and we did it.”
At 24 years and 99 days Vettel has beaten the record previously held by Fernando Alonso, who triumphed with Renault in 2005 and 2006, by just under a year.
Following the warm-down lap Vettel exited his car and joined in with the rest of the team in a mass group hug.
For the record Vettel is now 114 points clear of Button, with only 100 available from the remaining races in Korea next Sunday, India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
There is still the constructors’ title up for grabs, but like the drivers’ crown, that is also virtually all over bar the shouting as Red Bull are comfortably clear of McLaren.