George Russell believes Mercedes holds a "luxury" position for the São Paulo Grand Prix after securing a provisional front-row lockout in the sprint.
The Mercedes driver recovered from a slow start at Interlagos to close onto the back of early leaders Verstappen and Kevin Magnussen.
After making light work of the Haas driver, Russell faced a far tougher challenge in passing the reigning champion.
After twice going side-by-side through the Senna S and Descida do Lago, the 24-year-old made his move on the third time of asking and steadily increased his advantage to take the chequered flag at the front of the pack for the first time in his F1 career.
"It was incredible," said Russell. "I wasn't expecting to have that much pace but it goes to show all the hard work that everybody is putting in and the progress we, as a team, have made.
"And these last three races since Austin, the car has been feeling really great.
"Obviously, it's difficult to know how Max would have got on had he been on the soft tyres but nevertheless, standing here is a great feeling.
"It's a bit difficult because, obviously, this is a sprint race and you've got to manage that risk-reward [balance], so even though I was dying to get that victory, I didn't want to risk it too much and end up with no points and starting at the back.
"But we made it stick third time lucky."
Although Carlos Sainz finished second, a five-place penalty for an engine change will promote Lewis Hamilton onto the front row alongside his Mercedes team-mate.
But this is currently only a provisional outcome, with Hamilton himself subject to a stewards' investigation for a start infringement.
"It's crazy to think that we're both starting on the front row," he added.
"Lewis did a great job coming from P8 so it's going to be exciting.
"I'm sure Max is going to be flying, coming through the pack but we're in a luxury position where we can maybe split the strategy and go for the win."