This weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the stage for a dramatic turn of events as title favorite Fernando Alonso and Ferrari made a mess of strategy, getting stuck mid-pack and unable to move into the necessary podium finish. Likewise Vettel's teammate Mark Webber, following a poor qualifying, found himself suddenly out of contention for the title that had seemed so near his grasp. Only Sebastian Vettel, with his fiercely fast qualifying and relentless speed in the race held out to win the day--and the championship, becoming the youngest ever to claim the title.
Lewis Hamilton, 2008 F1 Driver's Champion, had previously held that honor, but 23-year-old Vettel edged him out by just under 5 months of age. Though Vettel's surge from third to first in the final race--having never lead the points race all season--was unexpected, it certainly isn't a shocker to see him become the youngest world champion to date.
Vettel has set more than a few other firsts, owning the titles of youngest driver ever to score a point in F1, to qualify on pole, and to win a race, among others.
Following the race, Vettel was understandably emotional, apparently awestruck by the success he'd had, not realizing his rise to World Champion status until after he'd taken the checkered flag. Rivals Alonso and Webber are also dealing with their own set of emotions following their disappointing performances at Abu Dhabi, capping a hard year of struggle, triumph, and hope.
While Vettel's maturity and tactics have been called into question this season, the young German proved he has what it takes to fight it out and win against some of the best drivers in the world. His relentless pursuit of speed and victory have paid off, making him the only German F1 world champion ever, aside from his legendary countryman Michael Schumacher.
In addition to the driver's championship won this weekend, last weekend's race in Brazil saw Red Bull clinch the manufacturer's championship. Despite the trouble the team faced this year--from reliability of its Renault powerplants to intra-team squabbles between Vettel and Webber, both on-track and off, the organization, led by Christian Horner, has proven it has what it takes to run with the titans of F1, and to beat them.