Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel became Formula One's youngest double world champion on Sunday after finishing third in a Japanese Grand Prix won by McLaren rival Jenson Button.
The boyish 24-year-old German, who had started from pole position for the 12th time this season, had needed only a point at Suzuka to clinch his second successive crown with four races to spare.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the previous youngest double world champion when he won for Renault aged 25 in 2006, was a close second on a beautiful sunlit afternoon at the Honda-owned circuit.
"Thank you so much, every single one," said Vettel, his voice trembling with emotion as he choked back the tears behind his visor, over the team radio after being told he was the 2011 world champion.
"We took nothing for granted and we did it."
Vettel, only the ninth driver to take back-to-back championships, had vowed to retain the title in style and his aggression and determination was evident from the start as he cut across Button and forced the Briton onto the grass.
"He's got to get a penalty for that," Button shouted over the radio but stewards, who included Australia's 1980 champion Alan Jones, decided to take no further action after reviewing the incident.
Vettel pulled away initially at a second a lap but 2009 champion Button reined him in and took the lead at his second pitstop when he emerged just ahead of the German in a race dictated by tyre wear.
A safety car incident triggered by another coming together between McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Felipe Massa, as well as a contact between Red Bull's Mark Webber and Mercedes' Michael Schumacher, bunched up the field for three laps while marshals retrieved debris.
Button kept his lead and took the chequered flag for what he considers a second home race, thanks to his Japanese girlfriend and long-standing passion for the country, just 1.1 seconds over Alonso.
The Spaniard had threatened to take the win but Button had just enough in his tyres to keep him at bay. Vettel was only 0.8 further back.
The win cut Vettel's overall lead over the Briton to 114 points, an insurmountable advantage with a total of 100 left to be won.
Hamilton, who has had numerous calls to the authorities this season, finished fifth after stewards took no further action for the incident with Massa that ripped off the Ferrari's front wing endplate.
Australian Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull.
Schumacher, who briefly led the race during the pitstops, was sixth and Massa seventh.
Formula One standings
Provisional Formula One driver and constructor standings after the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Sunday
1. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 324
2. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 210
3. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 202
4. Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 194
5. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 178
6. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 90
7. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes GP 63
8. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes GP 60
9. Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Renault 36
10. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) Renault 34
11. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 28
12. Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 27
13. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 20
14. Jaime Alguersuari (Spain) Toro Rosso 16
15. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 13
16. Sebastien Buemi (Switzerland) Toro Rosso 13
17. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Williams 4
18. Bruno Senna (Brazil) Renault 2
19. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1
20. Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) Sauber 0
21. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Team Lotus 0
22. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Team Lotus 0
23. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy) HRT 0
24. Jerome d'Ambrosio (Belgium) Virgin 0
25. Timo Glock (Germany) Virgin 0
26. Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 0
27. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) HRT 0
28. Karun Chandhok (India) Team Lotus 0
1. RedBull - Renault 518
2. McLaren - Mercedes 388
3. Ferrari 292
4. Mercedes 123
5. Renault 72
6. Force India - Mercedes 48
7. Sauber - Ferrari 40
8. Toro Rosso - Ferrari 29
9. Williams - Cosworth 5
10. Lotus - Renault 0
11. HRT - Cosworth 0
12. Virgin - Cosworth 0
Germany's Sebastian Vettel became Formula One's youngest double world champion at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
The following are some key facts about the Red Bull driver:
-- Vettel was born in Heppenheim, a town surrounded by vineyards between Heidelberg and Darmstadt, on July 3, 1987.
-- He started out racing karts at the age of eight and then competed in junior series, including the 2004 German Formula BMW championship where he won 18 of the 20 races. That earned him a test in a Williams-BMW F1 car.
-- The following year he was top rookie in the Formula Three Euroseries, won by Britain's Lewis Hamilton.
-- Vettel became the youngest driver to take part in a grand prix weekend when he drove for BMW-Sauber in Friday practice in Turkey in 2006 aged 19 and 53 days.
-- He then made his Formula One race debut with BMW-Sauber at Indianapolis in 2007 when he replaced the injured Robert Kubica. He finished eighth, becoming the youngest driver to score a point aged 19 and 349 days.
-- He took part in seven races in 2007 with Toro Rosso.
-- The German was handed a full race seat with Toro Rosso for 2008 and failed to finish his first four races. He then won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza from pole position. That made him the youngest driver to start on pole (21 years and 72 days) and also the youngest ever winner (21 years and 73 days).
-- Vettel switched to Red Bull for 2009 after Britain's David Coulthard retired.
-- He won four races in 2009, including Red Bull's first victory at the Chinese Grand Prix where he also secured the team's first pole position and led their first one-two finish. Vettel ended up overall runner-up behind Brawn's Jenson Button.
-- In 2010, he took 10 pole positions and won five races.
CHANGE -- This year, with four races remaining, he has been on pole 12 times and won nine times (CHECK). He has already scored more points than in all of 2010.
-- Vettel became world champion for the first time at the age of 23 and 135 days. The previous youngest was McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in 2008, aged 23 and 301 days.
-- He was only Germany's second F1 world champion, after seven times champion Michael Schumacher.
-- His second title made him the youngest double champion, an accolade previously held by Spain's Fernando Alonso who was 25 when he took his 2006 crown with Renault.
-- Nicknamed 'Baby Schumi' in his early days by a German media seeking a successor to Schumacher.
-- Known as a bit of a joker, with a love of British humour and the Beatles. He lives in Switzerland.
List of Formula One champions
2011 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull
2010 - Vettel, Red Bull
2009 - Jenson Button (Britain) Brawn
2008 - Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren
2007 - Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari
2006 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault
2005 - Alonso, Renault
2004 - Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2003 - Schumacher, Ferrari
2002 - Schumacher, Ferrari
2001 - Schumacher, Ferrari
2000 - Schumacher, Ferrari
1999 - Mika Hakkinen (Finland) McLaren
1998 - Hakkinen, McLaren
1997 - Jacques Villeneuve (Canada) Williams
1996 - Damon Hill (Britain) Williams
1995 - Schumacher, Benetton
1994 - Schumacher, Benetton
1993 - Alain Prost (France) Williams
1992 - Nigel Mansell (Britain) Williams
1991 - Ayrton Senna (Brazil) McLaren
1990 - Senna, McLaren
1989 - Prost, McLaren
1988 - Senna, McLaren
1987 - Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Williams
1986 - Prost, McLaren
1985 - Prost, McLaren
1984 - Niki Lauda (Austria) McLaren
1983 - Piquet, Brabham
1982 - Keke Rosberg (Finland) Williams
1981 - Piquet, Brabham
1980 - Alan Jones (Australia) Williams
1979 - Jody Scheckter (South Africa) Ferrari
1978 - Mario Andretti (U.S.) Lotus
1977 - Lauda, Ferrari
1976 - James Hunt (Britain) McLaren
1975 - Lauda, Ferrari
1974 - Emerson Fittipaldi (Brazil) McLaren
1973 - Jackie Stewart (Britain) Tyrrell
1972 - Fittipaldi, Lotus
1971 - Stewart, Tyrrell
1970 - Jochen Rindt (Austria) Lotus
1969 - Stewart, Matra
1968 - Graham Hill (Britain) Lotus
1967 - Denny Hulme (New Zealand) Brabham
1966 - Jack Brabham (Australia) Brabham
1965 - Jim Clark (Britain) Lotus
1964 - John Surtees (Britain) Ferrari
1963 - Clark, Lotus
1962 - G. Hill, BRM
1961 - Phil Hill (U.S.) Ferrari
1960 - Brabham, Cooper
1959 - Brabham, Cooper
1958 - Mike Hawthorn (Britain) Ferrari
1957 - Juan Manuel Fangio (Argentina) Maserati
1956 - Fangio, Lancia/Ferrari
1955 - Fangio, Mercedes
1954 - Fangio, Mercedes/Maserati
1953 - Alberto Ascari (Italy), Ferrari
1952 - Ascari, Ferrari
1951 - Fangio, Alfa Romeo
1950 - Giuseppe Farina (Italy) Alfa Romeo
7 - Schumacher
5 - Fangio
4 - Prost
3 - Brabham, Stewart, Lauda, Piquet, Senna
2 - Ascari, Graham Hill, Clark, Fittipaldi, Hakkinen, Alonso, Vettel.