“The last lap in qualifying three was spot on, just what I needed. It was nice to get it together.”
The Finn is 44 points behind six-time world champion Hamilton, who will still fancy his chances of equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 91 career wins on Sunday at a track that last hosted an F1 race in 2013.
Both drivers will start on the soft tyres.
“He’s two tenths ahead, he did a great job so congrats to him,” said the Briton, who like everyone else had only one practice session to set up the car after Friday’s track action was wiped out by bad weather.
“Going around behind the safety car in these conditions is going to be tough,” said Hamilton of the low temperatures and the problems of getting heat into the tyres.
“There’s a lot to play for tomorrow so I need to get my head down.”
Verstappen said his car had started understeering just at the key moment.
“When it’s so cold, when you’re understeering you’re graining the front tyres so basically eating up the rubber which cost me a bit of lap time,” said the Dutch 23-year-old.
“We’re getting closer towards Mercedes which I think is very positive.”
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon qualified fifth, with Renault teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon sixth and seventh respectively.
Britain’s Lando Norris will line up eighth for McLaren, with teammate Carlos Sainz 10th and Sergio Perez in between for Racing Point.
German super-sub Nico Hulkenberg, called in as a late replacement for the unwell Lance Stroll at Racing Point, will line up last on the grid.
One place ahead of him, in 19th, will be Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, making a record 323rd start – one more than retired Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.