Sebastian Vettel was full of pride after successfully defending his Formula One drivers' title.
Vettel's delight at the achievement of his second world title
SUZUKA // Unpredictability had long been replaced by inevitability in the race for this year's Formula One world championship and yesterday, under a cloudless Japanese sky, Sebastian Vettel finally and conclusively secured his second successive drivers' title.
Red Bull Racing's German driver won his maiden title at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi last year, but he arrived at the Suzuka Circuit yesterday knowing he needed only one point to secure the championship with four races remaining.
Even though Jenson Button - the only man mathematically capable of catching Vettel - won in the sun, with Vettel finishing in third place the focus of the afternoon remained squarely on the shoulders of the sport's most exciting young protagonist.
"It should be Seb that we talk about," Button said.
"This guy has done a great job this year. However hard we've tried, we haven't been able to touch him."
The result means he leads the world championship by 114 points with only 100 points remaining. He appeared, after a long silence, on his in-car radio to thank his team.
"We took nothing for granted and we did it," he said jubilantly.
The 24 year old's success means he is now the youngest two-time world champion and only the ninth driver to win back-to-back titles in the history of the sport. "It is just as confusing as the first one - it is hard to find the right words," he said.
"In a way, the hardest thing after winning last year is to go out and do it again, but it's great to have achieved the goal we set ourselves this year already."
While the required top-10 finish was never in doubt, Vettel had spoken of his desire to complete a hat-trick of victories at Japan's history laden circuit.
Starting on pole, it looked a real possibility that he would claim his 10th race win of the season when he created a 1.5 second lead after only two laps.
But Button, who felt he had been forced off the track at the start by the pole-sitter, fought back after slipping behind his teammate Lewis Hamilton, and exacted revenge when he overtook Vettel in the pit lane during the second round of stops.
"We saw that it is extremely tight; tighter than maybe sometimes it looked this year," Vettel said. "In the end, the top four cars were within not even 10 seconds and it is great to know that it is so tight, but that we can come so strong out of it.
"Last year, after the chequered flag it was all over, there was a long period of time when you weren't in the car again.
"So it's a bit different this year, and it makes it even more special in a way."
Button has a strong affinity with Japan and had said earlier in the week that he would love to win his first race at Suzuka at the 12th attempt, even if it was inevitably going to be overshadowed by Vettel claiming the title.
Immediately after passing the chequered flag, he stopped his car, exited and bowed respectfully in front of the passionate fans.
"This is one of the most perfect circuits in grand prix racing and also with one of the most special crowds as well," said Button, who has the Japanese characters for No1 inked on to his ankle.
"The Japanese people here have been so supportive of us and it is great to see so many fans here supporting this weekend. Hopefully we've planted a small, good memory in their heads as it has been a very difficult year for them."