On this day in 2010: Sebastian Vettel becomes youngest Formula One champion

Sebastian Vettel became the youngest world champion in Formula One history on this day in 2010 after victory in a remarkable season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old German had been third in the standings going into the race but leader and favourite Fernando Alonso could only finish seventh with another title hope, Mark Webber, coming home in eighth.

Red Bull’s Vettel won by 10 seconds from Lewis Hamilton, who had also held slim title hopes, with Jenson Button third.

Vettel, having qualified in pole position, controlled most of the race, surging clear at the front after the early deployment of a safety car and timing his pitstop well.

The real drama came further down the field with the battle for position between Ferrari’s Alonso and Webber, Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate.

Alonso, a two-time world champion, had held an eight-point lead over Webber and was 15 points clear of Vettel. He would have guaranteed the title with a top-two placing and would still have taken the crown in the event of a Vettel win had he finished in the top five.

The Spaniard started from third on the grid and slipped to fourth when Button overtook him after the start. His focus for the race largely became staying ahead of Webber, who had started fifth, but both principal title challengers got stuck behind traffic after tyre changes and could not reclaim lost ground.

All the while Vettel powered ahead, building enough of an advantage to ease to his fifth victory of the season and an unlikely title triumph despite a strong finish from the McLaren of Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel racing for Red Bull
Vettel won four successive world titles with Red Bull (David Davies/PA)

It was an extraordinary conclusion to a dramatic season. It was the first time Vettel, who had trailed by 31 points with six races remaining, had topped the standings all year.

“I’m speechless,” Vettel said. “It’s been an incredible year. We’ve always kept believing in the team, and the car, and I have kept believing in myself.”

Vettel went on to retain the title in dominant fashion in 2011 and followed that with two more successes in 2012 and 2013. Now 35 and with Aston Martin after a spell with Ferrari, he is planning to retire at the end of the current season.