Ricciardo trailed polesitter Hamilton by more than a second which has led him to believe it will be virtually impossible to challenge the Mercedes pair in today's grand prix if they replicate the pace shown in qualifying.
Although happy with his performance, the 24-year-old admitted a third place finish and a first podium would be a satisfying result from the weekend.
Ricciardo finished second in the season opener at Australia's Albert Park but a breach of the fuel flow regulations saw him disqualified from his maiden podium finish.
“I think third is the best we can do,” said Ricciardo
“I don't really see how I could have improved much more in qualifying, so I think we're doing the best we can, but now that we're around third or fourth I want to close the gap to the silver cars.
“If Mercedes continue at the pace they had today then realistically we won't catch them, so then third, although it wouldn't be a victory, it would be really satisfying.”
Meanwhile, his reigning world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel will start from 15th on the grid after incurring a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
The German was unable to post a time in the final part of qualifying after suffering a gearbox failure at the start of Q3.