The German's Brazilian GP success came after he snatched the lead from polesitter Valtteri Bottas when the lights went out.
He kept the Mercedes in his rear view mirrors throughout the 71-lap race as Ferrari's strategy ensured Vettel retained his lead through the single round of pit stops, despite their rivals' attempts to pull off an undercut.
Having been beaten to the Formula One title by Lewis Hamilton this season, Vettel admitted it was nice to get back onto the top of the podium for a fifth time this year.
"I think for now it's a great relief," said the former world champion. "It's been a tough day, tough race. It was really difficult, no room for mistakes. A little bit difficult to control the tyres the whole race so we'll have a drink here and we'll see what's coming.
"Initially I had a very good launch so I thought 'I got this'. I was maybe a bit too greedy with the throttle and spinning the wheels a little bit, losing a little bit of the momentum on Valtteri but then I looked over, and saw that he was still struggling. Then I sort of came a little bit on the second phase which was just enough to give me the momentum to hang in there into the first corner and I knew I had to go for it.
"I'm really happy especially for all the guys in the team and back home in Maranello. They've been working so hard. It's been a tough couple of weeks for us but nice to get it to the end and have both cars up here."