(CNN) -- Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is the new Formula One world champion after winning the title-deciding race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The German produced a peerless drive from pole position to take the checkered flag ahead of the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who led the championship standings going into the final race of the season, could only manage seventh place to see his title hopes ruined.
The 23-year-old Vettel is the youngest-ever world champion in motorsport's premier class, claiming his fifth victory of the year to take the lead in the standings for the first time in a topsy-turvy season.
"I'm a bit speechless. I don't know what you are supposed to say in this moment," Vettel told the official post-race press conference.
"It has been an incredibly tough season, physically and mentally especially. But we have always believed in myself, my car, the team "
Spain's Alonso, who only needed to finish fourth to deny Vettel the title, looked to be the victim of a tactical error by his Ferrari team after being pulled in for an early pitstop.
It left the two-time world champion behind slower cars and he could not overtake and make up lost ground on the tight Yas Marina circuit.
Alonso defended his team after his shattering disappointment, having qualified third fastest behind Vettel and Hamilton.
"After the race, it is always very easy to see the best strategy," he told gathered reporters.
"But this is a sport. This is motor racing. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Congratulations to Red Bull and Sebastian, but next year we will try again."
Vettel's teammate Mark Webber, who trailed Alonso by eight points going into the final round, saw his chances disappear in similar fashion after a premature stop for new tires and finished eighth.
He too defended his team's decision to bring him in early.
"Early in the race, obviously, we had to make a few calls to get out of that position we were in. It wasn't too bad till then.
"And going for the harder tire pretty early on obviously hurt Fernando (Alonso) too because he had to cover me off -- so in a way it was a bit of a team effort I suppose that helped Seb take the title -- but obviously I didn't get the result I wanted."
The victory left Vettel on top of the standings with 256 points, just four clear of Alonso. Webber finished the season on 242 points with 2008 champion Hamilton on 240.
Red Bull had already clinched the constructors' title after the penultimate race in Brazil, but a solid display from McLaren left them in second place ahead of Ferrari.