At that stage Verstappen was ahead - courtesy of an around-the-outside pass at the start at Turn 1 - but Ricciardo was on softer rubber and had a clear pace advantage. More significantly, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was only a handful of seconds up the road, and had a looming five-second penalty for his pass on Verstappen at Turn 6.
Verstappen's decision to cede ground to his team mate ultimately helped the team secure second and third - their first double podium since Hungary 2015.
"The way they worked together to ensure both cars got ahead of Rosberg - fantastic," team principal Christian Horner said. "They worked exactly as a team should, in harmony. They did everything you could have expected today."
Verstappen said he had no regrets about allowing his team mate an easy pass, explaining: "I think Daniel and I have a good relationship so we can do that. You have to earn that trust as well, because I'm quite new still.
"For the team it was a very positive day. The most important thing was for us to be in front of Ferrari. That definitely worked today and we were even challenging Mercedes. We kept Nico behind us on fair pace, so that was good."
Horner too was buoyed by Red Bull's pace, saying it bodes well for the second half of the season - which features circuits like Singapore, where Red Bull are traditionally very strong.
"Our pace on this track - where we didn't expect to be so competitive - was really encouraging," Horner added. "We weren't too far off - which is really encouraging for the second half of the year."