Sao Paulo, Brazil: Sebastian Vettel made history as the youngest ever triple-world champion after a sixth place finish in a wild season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix that finished under a safety car due to the Force India of Paul Di Resta crashing heavily on the last lap of the 71 lap race.
Vettel started the race from fourth place on the grid but was bumped down to the tail of the field after getting bumped by the Williams of Bruno Senna on the first corner of the first lap of the race.
The 25-year-old German fought his way back in changeable conditions and passed the retiring seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher for sixth to win the title by three points from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso who finished second behind the race-winning McLaren of Jenson Button.
Vettel joined Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio and compatriot Schumacher as the only Formula 1 drivers to win three successive drivers' titles.
"You're a world champion, you're a triple world champion, you are the man!" said Red Bull Racing's team principal Christian Horner at the end of the race.
The outcome of the race was anything but certain right from the start as Alonso started strong with Hamilton and Button taking the lead.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg played his part in the dramatic race by taking the lead from the McLarens and looking fast enough to win the race.
A spin and then later a collision while battling for the lead with Hamilton put paid to Hulkenberg's chances, however, as he was handed a drive-thru penalty.
Alonso and his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa looked stoic as they stood second and third on the podium as Vettel celebrated his title triumph with Schumacher in parc ferme before heading out on the start-finish straight to the cheers of the spectators in the grandstand.
There were some tense moments for Vettel following his clash with Senna as the Red Bull Racing pit wall suspected damage at the rear of his RB8.
Ultimately, however, Vettel was not one of the six drivers who failed to cross the finish line at the end of the season finale.
The 2013 season is scheduled to kick off in Australia on March 17.