Vettel, who had led the first part of the race before being jumped by Valtteri Bottas in the initial pitstops, underlined that he would have let Verstappen past without a fight given their respective tyre situations.
Despite his current difficulties though, Hamilton only finds himself nine points behind Vettel in the championship, after the Ferrari driver could only finish eighth following his clash with Verstappen.
When asked how he felt his pace was compared to Vettel before the Safety Car was deployed, Bottas said: "It felt like everything was under control and I had no major drop off in the end".
Indeed the aggressive Dutchman went far too deep on the brakes making a collision inevitable.
Ferrari, though, played the bluff on the ultras, with neither Raikkonen and Vettel completing their final laps and heading back into the pits. Ricciardo moving to finish. He enthused about his Ferrari auto over the team radio, calling it "great qualifying, great car". Hamilton has 33 points and Bottas has 22 points in their scorecards, placing them in second and third places, respectively. Renault now hold the cards when it comes to the fourth place battle, but Haas - and a recovering Force India - are primed to challenge. Ferrari have not been victorious in Shanghai since Fernando Alonso took the flag in 2013, although Vettel was second previous year, in a race dominated by Hamilton and Mercedes, who have won every meeting here since the turbo hybrid era began in 2014.
Following on from the Ferrari front row in Bahrain last week, it's another Ferrari front row in China, with Sebastian Vettel on pole and Kimi Raikkonen alongside him. We had a safety auto at the wrong moment. Ricciardo, however, made no mistake when handed the opportunity with a superb demonstration in overtaking.
"I don't think I necessarily need to change a lot of things", he said.
"We have seen the competitive picture change quickly over the past three races and it's clear that we still have much to understand about our auto and how to get the best from the tyres". "That probably would have been the best idea but unfortunately that happened".
"Sometimes you have just got to lick the stamp and send it". "It's obviously cooler. It's a different track, so I think, honestly, the first two races have been quite different, so it's not that straightforward to predict the third one".