Despite this, Vettel was soon back into the top ten which was sufficient to keep him in the lead of the title battle, and Alonso had his own scare when the Ferrari twitched and only the Spaniard's superb reflexes kept him from spinning out on lap 57 Alonso survived and was handed second by Massa, while Vettel reacted by climbing to sixth after a similarly good-natured concession by Michael Schumacher in his final F1 outing. Vettel was once again being told by his anxious team to maintain station and bring it home as conditions reached possibly their worst state of the entire day.
That was proved when Schumacher and Kobayashi tangled at turn 4 on the penultimate lap, sending the Sauber into turn 4; and second later there was a far more serious accident when Paul di Resta went into a slide that he couldn't correct through the last corner and slammed hard into the outside concrete wall opposite the pit lance entrance. The car was right on the racing line at the fastest bit of the circuit, and there was also a lot of debris from the shattered Force India which meant that the race stewards had no option but to deploy the safety car for the second time of the afternoon: the race would end under yellow, the positions frozen.
That meant Button had won the race, Alonso had claimed second and Massa had clinched an emotional home race podium position which meant that Ferrari had beaten McLaren to the runners-up spot in the constructors championship. But in terms of the drivers' world championship, it sill wasn't enough to change the outcome in Alonso's favour: Vettel came home in sixth place behind Webber and Hulkenberg, and that was enough to make make him the youngest-ever triple world champion by a slender three point margin in the end.
Not that it was all about the title or the race win: a great overtaking move by Vitaly Petrov on Charles Pic on lap 66 had swung the crucial tenth place in the constructors championship away from Marussia and back to Caterham at the very last moment, which might yet have ramifications on the driver transfer market and Heikki Kovalainen's chances of staying in F1 in 2013.
As Sebastian Vettel celebrated, running down pit lane to bask in the adoration of the Brazilian crowd, there was no disguising the heavy heart of Fernando Alonso as he trudged his way to the podium celebrations with Button and Massa. He'd given it his all, and there was nothing more he could have given; it just hadn't been enough to overcome the performance gap between the Ferrari and the Red Bull.
Vettel might have been missing from the podium celebrations, but the party was soon in full swing in the Red Bull garage - which once again boomed out Queen's "We Are The Champions" over the sound system. Yes they were - and deserved ones too, you had to admit.
Full race results