"We will remember this battle; we will miss him," the Ferrari driver said.
"A great man, a great character, a driver of the old school, a lot of values in his personality. He is not afraid to say what he thinks."
second place at Interlagos
was the 42nd podium finish of a 12-year career that has spanned 215 races. He has taken nine victories and narrowly missed out on the world championship in 2010.
Mark Webber's final F1 interview
His final race was marked by a close battle with Alonso, whose career has spanned exactly the same number of races.
Webber twice had to pass the Spaniard to move into second place before edging clear in the closing laps.
"It was nice to be the man battling with Mark in the last race; we were chatting on the podium about this," Alonso said.
Vettel also paid tribute to Webber, despite the occasionally fractious relationship they have had over the last five seasons as the competitive friction between them boiled over from time to time.
"We didn't have the best relationship but with some things turning out differently it could have been a different story," Vettel said.
"But we always had huge respect on a professional level. We were pushing the team very hard to step onto the next level.
"I can certainly say I learned a lot from him. I learned to become a better driver due to his skills.
Mark Webber's F1's highs and lows
"That's why I consider him one of the drivers with the best talent we have on the grid."
Webber celebrated the end of his career by breaking protocol and taking his helmet off as he drove back to the pits on his slowing down lap so he could savour the cheers of the crowd.
The 37-year-old said he was happy he had been able to share the podium at his final race with the two drivers he holds in the highest regard.
"The difficult part for me was actually getting in the car, I was quite overcome with emotion to be honest," said the 37-year-old, who will race for Porsche in endurance racing next year.
"[It was] a very special day. Seb and I have had our challenges over the times. It's easier to have a better relationship with Fernando because he's not on the same team.
"They have been the best of this generation and to finish on the podium with them was nice.
Vettel and Webber - best of enemies
"When you start this journey… I spoke to Ann [Neal, his partner] earlier, and she said we've been honoured.
"Flat out, it has been a big effort, but that is what you subscribe to. This sport is relentless. Some sports you can dip in and out. This one, you can't miss practice sessions or races or you can lose your slot.
"It's a sport I've loved. I never ever could have dreamt of the career I've had - tremendous highs, tough moments, but they have to happen. It's what you learn from.
"The biggest strongest memories you have are in the car. There are some great memories with some special people in this paddock but it is driving the car on its tippy toes, that's what I was paid to do and I enjoyed doing."
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