Barrichello had looked comfortable out front through the early stages with a series of fastest laps but his chance of victory in the race was hit when he exited the pits after his first stop in traffic and then lost more time battling with Vettel. The time lost by the Brazilian not only allowed Webber – who had kept the gap to the lead down to two seconds – through into the lead but also allowed Kubica to get ahead when the pair had completed their stops.
Button climbed as high as second before making his stop while Vettel also got as high as second before making his first stop – with Barrichello lying third when the first stops had been completed, Button in sixth and Vettel in seventh.
Through the second round of stops, Webber maintained his lead from Kubica while further back, Vettel was able to get ahead of Button when the pair completed their final stops – leaving Vettel fifth and Button sixth.
That result would have been good enough for Button to secure the crown, but a first F1 title was secured when Barrichello was forced to pit with a puncture with eight laps to go, possibly as a result of contract from the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton – who had changed his strategy by pitting under the Safety Car at the start and then gradually climbed up the order as the race progressed.
Through the final laps, Webber maintained his lead over Kubica to secure his second career win, while Hamilton's change in strategy paid dividends as he came through from 18th on the grid to secure the final place on the podium.
Vettel took fourth – and now lies second in the championship standings as a result – while a euphoric Button claimed fifth and the drivers' title after a performance which went a long way to silencing the critics who suggested he was stuttering towards the crown, with a number of impressive overtaking moves as he worked his way through the pack to secure the points needed to put him out of reach.
Raikkonen took sixth for Ferrari ahead of Sebastien Buemi, who carried his strong qualifying form into the race to take points for Toro Rosso, while a disappointed Barrichello had to settle for eighth. The Brazilian will now go into the season finale in Abu Dhabi trailing Vettel by two points in the race for the runner-up slot.
Kovalainen finished ninth ahead of Kobayashi, who was impressive on his debut with Toyota but could also find himself in trouble with the stewards after an incident which saw him cut across on countryman Nakajima as the Williams man came out from the pits after his first stop. Nakajima lost the nose of his car in the incident and went off heavily into the barriers at turn four to cap a miserable race for his team after Rosberg was forced out with mechanical woes.
Aside from the three first lap casualties, Nick Heidfeld was the only other retirement as he suffered a failure of his fuel rig on his first stop and then ran out of fuel on returning to the track.
Not only has Button now clinched the drivers' title, but Brawn GP are the constructors' champions less then eleven months after it appeared that the Brackley-based team could be forced to close its doors when Honda announced it was to quit the sport.