Ricciardo's win came courtesy of an inspired strategic call when the race was neutralised due to debris on-track following a collision between the Toro Rosso drivers. Verstappen was ahead of Ricciardo at the restart, but blew his opportunity with botched overtakes on Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
They may have lost a place apiece, but when the safety vehicle was recalled, their pace advantage over the Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes' Bottas and Lewis Hamilton became clear.
Ferrari was left scrambling to try and keep Vettel in touching distance of Bottas at the front.
Bottas finished second ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, while Verstappen was fifth behind Hamilton after being penalised for a late clash with Vettel.
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Bottas tried to defend against the Red Bull driver into Turn 6 but Ricciardo seized the inside line and dived for the narrowing gap into the hairpin, successfully wresting away the lead.
Ferrari's decision bit Vettel particularly badly, even if it was not his fault.
Ricciardo managed to progress in 14th place in Q1 and duly ended qualifying sixth, one position behind teammate Max Verstappen. Ricciardo showed him how it is done, coming from absolutely nowhere to cleanly pass Hamilton.
The Red Bull star started the race in sixth-position in what had been a week to forget for the Milton Keynes outfit. The Australian picked off Vettel thanks to DRS on the back straight to take second, leaving only Bottas on his radar.
"I'll never give up hope but for sure the window of optimism reduces over time", said the 28-year-old, who retired from the previous race in Bahrain with an energy store problem in the power unit. Verstappen was slapped with a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision, but Vettel was dropping back from the Red Bull driver after a greater rate of knots, having also lost places to Raikkonen, Hamilton and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg.
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Driver of the day No contest this - Ricciardo was stunning in the closing laps.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo has won the Chinese Grand Prix.
From there, Ricciardo cruised clear to collect victory, his first since last year's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and sixth of his career. Verstappen was too far back to try a realistic move but he threw his auto down the inside at the apex and slid into Vettel, earning a 10-second penalty from the stewards for causing a collision.
Carlos Sainz Jr. gave Renault a double-points finish by finishing ninth ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen, who completed the points in P10.
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