Sebastian Vettel claimed his second successive world championship title at Suzuka but was unable to stop Jenson Button taking victory in the Japanese Grand Prix.
In fact, even as lowly a finish as 10th at Suzuka would have given Vettel the title, but the Red Bull driver had set his sights on a 10th win of the season.
However, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were equally determined to rain on his parade. So while Button was winning the Japanese Grand Prix, Vettel had to settle for third with the consolation of being crowned the youngest two-time world champion on the day. In the final minutes, Alonso was steadily closing on Button and chipping away at his lead, but the McLaren man held off the challenge and successfully defended first place.
The eventual winner lost out badly at the start when Vettel defended his pole position with a ruthless manoeuvre. Button was forced onto the grass, allowing team-mate Lewis Hamilton to go past. The race stewards investigated the incident, but declined to penalise Vettel.
On lap six, Fernando Alonso nailed team-mate Felipe Massa to assert himself as the biggest threat to Vettel and the two McLarens who had meanwhile swapped positions once again. Hamilton's rear tyres were shot after only eight laps, which is when he pitted for the first time
Just one lap later, Vettel and Schumacher came in for new sets of rubber. On lap eleven, Button and Alonso pitted together and both emerged ahead of Hamilton.
Sebastien Buemi's race ended shortly after his first pit stop when his mechanics failed to secure the front wheel properly – a rerun of the situation with team-mate Jaime Alguersuari in China earlier in the season. The series of first stops continued on lap 13 as Rosberg came in for fresh tyres – the Mercedes GP driver was already up to 17th having started from last.
Meanwhile at the front, Button was beginning to put pressure on Vettel. On lap 19, the Red Bull driver came in for an early second stop; McLaren responded immediately and brought Button in on the next lap. The strategy worked as Button came back on track ahead of Vettel.
Once again, there was a controversial incident involving contact between Hamilton and Felipe Massa, the same pair who had already run up against each other in Singapore. The glancing blow lopped off a deflector on the Ferrari's front wing, leaving debris on the track at turns 7 and 16 and causing the safety car to come out on lap 24. The race stewards investigated this latest Hamilton/Massa clash but decided against imposing a penalty.
On lap 34, Vettel came in for his third stop, fitting a set of hard tyres which would take him to the end of the race. The first of the two McLaren drivers to pit was Hamilton, followed by Button on lap 27 who maintained his lead over Vettel.
Font-runner Alonso also came in for a tyre change which left Michael Schumacher temporarily leading the field. This was the first time the German had led a race since 2006. On lap 41, Schumacher eventually pitted to put Button back in the lead which he then retained.
Alonso and Vettel completed the top three, with Webber and Hamilton following up behind. Schumacher's pit stop enabled him to edge out Massa for sixth. Rosberg clawed his way up from last on the grid to finish tenth.