Just when it seems 2012’s Formula One season couldn't get any better, we end up with one of the most thrilling races of modern times and just three points--yes, three points--separating the top two drivers.

It started in Melbourne, Australia in mid-March and yesterday, at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Interlagos, Brazil, Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel was crowned world champion, the third time in a row for the German youngster, and the third time with the Red Bull Racing team.

Vettel’s tally of points in the Drivers’ Championship was 281 in the end, which, as mentioned, was just three ahead of the second-placed driver, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. This, in a season that was the longest in the history of the sport, and one that also saw no less than eight different winners.

The winner of the final race, the Brazilian Grand Prix, was McLaren’s Jenson Button, who finished ahead of Alonso. Had it been the other way around, then we would have had a different world champion. This is because Vettel only finished sixth, which was enough for him to be crowned champ.

Third place at the rain-affected Brazilian race went to Alonso’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, who has shown an impressive return to form in the final few races of 2012 and hopefully will continue that form into 2013.

As the lights went out, Massa, at fifth on the grid, immediately got the better of Button, at second on the grid, to move up to second behind pole man Lewis Hamilton of McLaren by the end of the first lap. He eventually slowed, conceding second place to Button and then his third spot to Alonso, who had managed to move up the ranks as well.

It was the two McLarens up front, followed by the two Ferraris, but a mistake by Alonso later on saw Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg get in front of him.

During this time Vettel had also spun and come into contact with Williams’ Bruno Senna. This, no doubt, cost him some time but he kept pushing and was later aided when more rain caused all drivers to slow.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso leads a pack of drivers at the 2012 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso leads a pack of drivers at the 2012 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix

The safety car came out between laps 23 and 29 to allow for some debris to be cleared. Soon, the lead spot was being chased by Hulkenberg and Hamilton. More rain fell, and a pass by Hulkenberg on the 55th lap saw the Force India driver spin out of control and hit Hamilton’s left-front wheel.

Hulkenberg managed to continue but was given a drive-through penalty, while Hamilton had to retire, thus ending his final race for the McLaren team on a low note. This left the lead position for Button, with Massa second and Alonso third.

On lap 62 of 71, Alonso passed Massa to lie 21 seconds behind leader Button. However, the Briton had an unassailable lead by now and Alonso’s title hopes could only depend on a misfortune for Vettel. Nothing happened, except that a late crash by Paul Di Resta in his Force India car meant the last race of the year actually ended behind the safety car.

The final figures tell the story: Vettel 281, Alonso 278: just three little points at the end of 20 Grands Prix. Third place went to Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen, who amassed 207 points in the first year of his F1 return.

In the Constructors’ Championship, the points were: Red Bull Racing 460, Ferrari 400 and McLaren 378 points.

Speaking at the conclusion of the race, the 2012 world champion, Sebastian Vettel said, “It’s difficult to imagine what goes through my head now, I am so full of adrenaline. It was an incredible race, everything that could have happened to make it more difficult for us today, happened!”

He now joins Juan-Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher today in the exclusive club of drivers to have won F1 world championships in three consecutive years, and he’s the youngest to have done it.

On a sad note, we bid farewell to seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, who is retiring from the sport for the second time. He will be replaced at Mercedes-AMG by Lewis Hamilton, whose performance at the new team will be something to look forward to in next year’s season.

While our F1 race coverage is now over for the year, there will still be plenty of F1 news over the coming months, with more driver announcements, testing updates and new race car reveals all due.