During an intense, dramatic and topsy-turvy Brazilian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel kept his nerve to claim his third consecutive drivers’ championship.
“It is difficult to imagine what goes through my head now even for myself,” Vettel said afterwards. “I am full of adrenaline and if you poke me now I wouldn't feel it.
“It was an incredible race. When you get turned around at Turn Four for no reason and it becomes like heading the wrong way down the M25, it is not the most comfortable feeling,” he added.
“We kept the car damage to a limit, but obviously we could see in the dry conditions later on that the pace wasn't there and I was really slow down the straights which made it very easy for others to pass us and very difficult for us to pass someone.
“Then we lost radio, did the pit stop probably at the wrong time because I put on a set of drys and a lap later it started to rain, I came in and the inters weren't ready because I had no radio communication – the team couldn't hear me.
“We caught back up in the intermediate conditions,” he concluded. “Then to limp home under the safety car, at that moment I didn't know if it was enough. I was told a couple of laps before it should be fine but then I don't know ... then to get told was unbelievable.
"Unfortunately, the guys couldn't hear my answer because the radio was broken!"
The championship was lost when Grosjean flew over my head
Vettel’s title triumph in Brazil means he becomes just the third driver in Formula One history to score three titles or more in a row, with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher being the only others to achieve the feat.
Having missed out on a third title himself and after leading the championship for so long in an uncompetitive Ferrari, Fernando Alonso was philosophical.
He admitted that the championship had not been won or lost on a wet afternoon in Interlagos but in other incidents.
“The championship was not lost here,” he said. “The championship was lost when [Romain] Grosjean flew over my head [at Spa] or when Vettel surprisingly only got a reprimand after qualifying in Japan.
“There have been situations during the season that make you think of these three points, but that's the sport. Even though I finished second in the points I have never had such respect and the affection from everybody in the paddock.
“This is the first time that I have got drivers, ex-drivers, teams, fans to say that we have done the best championship,” he said. “We'll be back as strong in 2013, because it would be harder to be stronger. I have a great feeling after 2012, by far the best year of my career.
“We are Formula One championship runners-up and not everybody can say that. And when you fight with all your heart and all your strength for so many months, without making a single mistake, neither the team nor me, we have to be very proud.”
The forgotten man was, of course, Button whose 15th career win was almost completely overshadowed by the title showdown. The McLaren driver was, however, the first to congratulate Vettel.
“I’d like to congratulation Sebastian on his third title in a row,” said Button. “He’s very, very impressive so congratulations to him and also Red Bull for clinching the Constructors’ at the previous race.
“It was one of the toughest races I’ve had, it was very tricky,” he said of his win. “It was on that point many times when you think Inters is the right tyre. You’re locking up tyres here and there but you’ve just got to push to the limit.
“It was a really good race. I’m really happy with the end result. We started the year so strong and we’ve ended it so strong. Just a few areas that we need to improve in the middle of the season.”
We’ve had a good time together over the last three years
The 2009 champion also took time to wish Mercedes-bound team-mate Lewis Hamilton well in 2013.
“I’d like to bid him farewell,” said Button. “We’ve had a good time together over the last three years and I think we’ve proved that on the first 10 laps of the race with how close our fighting was. I hope he has a good career in his next team.”
Behind the leaders other dramas unfolded. Jean-Eric Vergne profited by being on the right tyres at the right time after the first safety car and was able to climb from 18th to eighth despite a collision with Timo Glock on the restart.
Caterham too had reason to celebrate. The Leafield-based team saw Vitaly Petrov finish 12th, a result which allowed them to steal 10th position in the Constructors’ Championship, handing the team a lucrative finish to the season.