Taking the F1 crown for the second time in a row made Vettel the youngest driver in history to win the championship twice.
“To win the title here is fantastic. I'm so grateful to everyone on the team,” said the 24-year-old Red Bull driver after the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.
Although Vettel failed to beat race winner Jenson Button for McLaren and Ferrari's second-placed Fernando Alonso, his 14th podium finish in 15 races was enough to cap his domination this season.
“I'd like to congratulate Sebastian on an exceptional season that he ended in spectacular fashion,” said German F1 legend Michael Schumacher. “It definitely makes me proud. We're friends.”
Vettel himself was at a loss for words immediately after winning the title.
“Where shall I start? We had a fantastic year – and it will continue,” he said.
With four races still to go, Vettel appears not to have lost his ambition.
“I would have preferred to win” in Japan, he said.
Vettel's hometown Heppenheim erupted with joy on Sunday as he retained his title. Around 1,500 residents set off fireworks, broke open champagne and yelped with joy in a car dealer's courtyard.
"The atmosphere was simply marvellous even if it was a little bit tense as one never knows what could happen during a race," beamed Alex Moller, president of the first fan club of Vettel.
"There is a good chance he will come and celebrate his title with us next week, even before the end of the season."