“It was on the limit,” Vasseur said. “But the lap before, at one stage, I said, ‘OK, we will try to do it.’ But I had the gap on my dash and I said, ‘Wow, no, it’s too far away, it’s too far away.’ But the lap after that, I was a bit surprised but probably less than Checo.
“But no, it was a mega-good move. And I think he was so motivated. Let’s say that he had to do it.”
Although Ferrari has achieved the only non-Red Bull victory of 2023 to date in Singapore, the 50-lap Las Vegas GP represented the team’s most competitive race showing.
While Verstappen pipped Leclerc at the start, the Ferrari driver preserved his Medium tyres better against the anticipated graining to swoop past the Dutchman on Lap 16.
However, Vasseur believes comparing Ferrari’s degradation against Red Bull’s on the Hard compound was compromised by the Safety Car leaving Leclerc on older tyres.
“I’m not sure. I think that Verstappen had more deg and he destroyed the tyre before us, but he was leading before this, that we had almost the same pace all the stint but probably that we were better on the tyre management on the first stint with the Medium,” the Frenchman explained.
“But I’m not sure that on the Hard it was not exactly the same case, because on the Hard [when] he pitted he had the tyres with five or six laps on us. And at the end, I had the feeling that we were coming back on [Sergio] Perez first and the pace was there and I think the tyre management was OK.”
Ferrari has regularly been a front-running contender in qualifying, but the Italian marque’s capricious SF-23 car has seen it struggle to maintain that pace on race runs.
But Vasseur has warned against being encouraged by Ferrari’s positive tyre degradation in Vegas, citing how the pattern has constantly evolved through the year.
Asked what learnings the team has applied to get on top of the current tyres, Vasseur said: “I think we have to pay attention to the too-quick conclusion. But if you have a look like the Mercedes last week [Brazil] was absolutely nowhere on the tyre management and they did a decent race this weekend.
“From track to track, from compound to compound, it’s a different story. Today the conditions were quite cold compared to the rest of the season. We had a good management, but I think it was already the case, not the last race, a couple of races ago. But it’s always on the edge on the tyre management.”