A one-two victory in Brazil – led by Sebastian Vettel – gave Red Bull the 2010 Constructors Championship with one race to spare, but the result means that the drivers' title will be decided next weekend in Abu Dhabi.
Mark Webber now trails Fernando Alonso by just eight points in the drivers' standings, with Vettel another seven points behind.
Alonso finished the race third to keep his championship lead, and Lewis Hamilton claimed fourth to keep his championship hopes alive, although he is now twenty-four points behind in the race for the title.
Fifth place for Jenson Button knocks him out of title contention. He finished just ahead of the two Mercedes, with Nico Rosberg beating Michael Schumacher to sixth place. Nico Hulkenberg – the pole-sitter – came home one lap down in eighth, whilst Robert Kubica and Kamui Kobayashi claimed the final points.
The sun was shining over Interlagos as the start approached, glinting off Nico Hulkenberg's blue Williams as it sat on pole position. Directly behind him were the four title contenders; Sebastian Vettel alongside Hulkenberg on the front row; Mark Webber in third shared the second row with Lewis Hamilton; championship leader Fernando Alonso surveying those in front from fifth place. The various championship permutations had been discussed at great length over the past fortnight, and the Formula 1 world was waiting anxiously for the five red lights to go out to signal that start of the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg's lead was short-lived, despite getting off the line without any problems. Vettel passed his compatriot into the first corner, whilst Webber overtook the Williams into turn four. Alonso had a look at Lewis Hamilton down the start-finish straight, and passed the 2008 world champion later that lap as Hamilton out-braked himself.
Standing between Alonso and the Red Bull duo was the third-placed man Hulkenberg, who was doing a valiant job of holding the Ferrari driver behind him. Vettel and Webber were lapping a second-a-lap faster than the rest of the field, and Alonso was losing time as Hulkenberg held station.
The Spaniard successfully dispatched Hulkenberg on Lap 7, but by this point was seven seconds behind race leader Vettel. Hulkenberg was now Hamilton's problem.
Whilst Hamilton was looking for a way past Hamilton, Jenson Button made an early stop at the end of Lap 11 for a set of harder tyres. He emerged in eighteenth, but within seven laps was up to tenth place.
Button's improved pace on his new set of tyres prompted other midfield runners to make their mandatory pit stops early. One of these was Felipe Massa, but he then had to make another stop on the following lap with a wheel-nut problem.
Hulkenberg pitted at the end of Lap 14, releasing Hamilton into fourth place. Michael Schumacher was up to fifth.
At the end of Lap 20, Hamilton was 12 seconds behind third-place man Alonso, and the Englishman dived into the pits for his stop next time round. He emerged ahead of teammate Button, but Schumacher, who pitted from fifth on the same lap as Hamilton, exited behind the reigning world champion. Hamilton's first flying lap on intermediate tyres was the fastest of the race at that point – and the next lap was even faster.
Alonso pitted from third at the end of Lap 24. The gap between him and the Red Bull pair was getting larger and larger, and the Ferrari driver needed to try and reverse this trend. Sebastian Vettel pitted from the lead on the following lap, and Webber came in the next time round.
Nico Rosberg managed to leap-frog teammate Schumacher when he made his pit stop. The seven-time world champion was being held up by Adrian Sutil, who was yet to make his first pit stop.
On Lap 30, Button got past Kamui Kobayashi to take fifth place, and the five title contenders now held the top five positions in the race. Vettel led, Webber was second and Alonso was third. At this stage, the two Red Bull drivers were extending their leads over Alonso by over half-a-second every lap.
The five title contenders held on to their respective positions, passing cars only when lapping back-markers. By Lap 45 the gap between leader Vettel and teammate Webber was just under two seconds. There was no sign of any team intervention, and Webber could not do much more than apply pressure to Vettel and his ageing engine.
On Lap 51 the safety car came out after Tonio Liuzzi ditched his Force India in Turn 2 after running wide. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber had been lapping a large train of cars as Liuzzi had his accident, and as they followed the safety car, the lapped cars of Nico Hulkenberg and Robert Kubica sat between the drivers in first and second place.
Lewis Hamilton, who had been complaining of tyre wear in the lead-up to the safety car, made a stop for a fresh set of tyres. Button also made a stop but both McLaren drivers remained in their respective fourth and fifth positions.
The safety car came in at the end of the end of Lap 55. Vettel bolted away off the restart, setting a fastest lap, whilst Webber was left passing back-markers. The McLaren pair had each had a free pit stop, but were now busy lapping the traffic that had bunched up behind the safety car.
As the race entered its final ten laps, Sebastian Vettel was getting faster and faster, and had a five second lead over his teammate. Mark Webber managed to close the gap slightly, but Vettel could just cruise to the checkered flag without too much trouble. Despite the fastest lap changing hands between the top four drivers – those who remain in the championship hunt – there was no further change in position. Lewis Hamilton took the fastest lap here in Brazil, Sebastian Vettel took the victory – and the championship will be decided in Abu Dhabi next Sunday.
Red Bull avoided the temptation to switch the position of their drivers. If the team had swapped them round – handing Webber the race victory – the Aussie would be just one point behind Alonso, but Vettel would be almost entirely out of contention. Their resolve to treat each driver equally was tested, but ultimately they stuck to their principles.