"I think my weekend has lacked a little bit of rhythm and we've been one step behind due to some of the issues on Friday", said Ricciardo.
The Australian lapped the unforgiving steel-lined streets of the Mediterranean principality in one minute and 11.841 seconds to outpace the Dutchman by almost two-tenths of a second with the first lap under 1:12 at the track. Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari and Monaco victor Daniel Ricciardo are in the third row.
Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo also had an interesting day.
Ricciardo's vehicle has spent more time in the garage than Verstappen's this weekend, but Ricciardo does not think he can use too much of that as an excuse for the gap to the Dutchman.
Verstappen dominated practice after his "headbutt" threat in Montreal. "The vehicle was working well".
Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton, who was fourth at 1:12.777, has won the Canadian Grand Prix six times, including the last three, and needs one more win to equal Michael Schumacher for the race record.
"I guess I still know how to drive", he said across the team radio.
Not to be overlooked is Ricciardo, the last man to beat Hamilton to victory in Canada, who put down the fifth best effort ahead of the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
Mercedes and Ferrari are right behind and will try to close the gap in qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
For Verstappen, it was his second podium of the season and a welcome return.
In the first practice, the team Red Bull found a fault in the engine, so in the second session for a long time the Australian vehicle was demolished.
"To be third is great for us and I think in the race we can do a really good job."
Like many drivers, he had a brief slip off the track 50 minutes in at a chicane on the back side of the course.
"We feel it's a good tyre for us and, in the long run, I felt good on it - so yeah, no big surprises", he said. "The lap time, I can't say I'm too excited about".
"I am not happy with sixth, but am I happy with the way I drove and actually what we did, yes". "It was waiting, waiting, waiting and eventually we got out. I kept it off the walls, which isn't easy to do on this track".
"Happy with the progress we made today, " Verstappen tweeted. We learned a bit and I know the direction I want to go set-up wise.
Read on for a preview of Sunday's showdown as Hamilton seeks to become the first driver to win four Canadian Grands Prix in succession.
All three have won two races so far this season. He needs to finish in the top five to earn enough points for his F1 superlicence.
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