Verstappen will start directly behind Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, but locked down the first spot on the second row as he eeked out Ricciardo by 0.054 seconds.
“I gave Max half a tenth!” Ricciardo joked after he was asked by Sky F1 if he gave his team-mate a birthday present.
“I wanted better, half a tenth is still half a tenth, [but] third would have been nicer than fourth.
“Half a second to Lewis here isn’t bad, I got most out of the car, we can be pretty happy with today.”
Ricciardo then jokingly claimed he qualified fourth on purpose because that was where he won from in Malaysia last year.
“I’m feeling probably the same as everyone else for tomorrow,” he added.
“One stop can be possible, but tyres could become too hot, so mixed strategies, I guess.
“Once again, I strategically qualified fourth, because that’s where I won from last year!”