HRT driver Karthikeyan qualified in 21st position, but will drop down the order after getting a five-place penalty for impeding Michael Schumacher in Q1.
The Indian, replacing Tonio Liuzzi this weekend, felt he had extract everything from his car.
"Qualifying was quite good. I think we got the best out of the car. I'm very happy with the way I drove. I think it's a good feeling," said Karthikeyan.
He admitted it felt good to outqualify Ricciardo despite the Indian Grand Prix weekend being a one-off appearance for him.
"I'm very happy, because he's rated very highly," he added.
Karthikeyan, who last raced in F1 in this year's European Grand Prix, is optimistic he will be able to fight with the Virgins in tomorrow's race.
"On heavy fuel the car, compared to the Virgin, is not so bad, so I think we can fight a little bit," Karthikeyan said.
"I think basically we are better off in the race, and today was a big surprise to be ahead of them by some sixth tenths, which is a big margin.
"I don't know what happened with the other car. In the first sector we have similar pace to the Lotus. It's at the high-downforce part that we lose. But we'll try to finish the race and it will be a good day."