Lewis Hamilton took his first pole position since Germany on Saturday, with Verstappen only third quickest and over 0.3s behind the six-time champion.
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen finished second to cement third place in the championship, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc third on track but in danger of disqualification for a fuel irregularity.
He said Ferrari were "a team that I've always appreciated over the years, so to earn respect from someone from there, that's obviously very high up, is not a bad thing".
"We need to stay humble about success and it is not just saying, it is really what I mean". Mercedes is quite dominant here.
He said: "I don't think there's much to explain -there has been a discrepancy between measurements". We tried everything we could. Of course I would have liked to actually qualify there, but still a lot of chances for tomorrow.
"For many many years I've never sat down and considered other options [beyond Mercedes], because we've been driving straight ahead onto the path we've been on and the journey we've been on", he said in the post-race press conference in Abu Dhabi.
"There will be some and you know, we've seen insane races this year. I can't tell you what will happen going forwards". There's no point for me to set any any limits for tomorrow. We just seemed to lack a bit of grip compared to (Mercedes).
Hamilton's team-mate Bottas, meanwhile, starts from the back of the grid after the team changed his engine not once but twice since the last race - most recently on Friday night when they discovered a problem with the new engine they put in a few weeks back.
"These guys have been doing a phenomenal job and I feel privileged to be in the period of time that they are here and looking forward to more close battles with us in the future". "To be honest I think we're still on that path".