It wasn't a particularly satisfactory day for joint points leader Lewis Hamilton, either.
He was then given a push by marshals into the pit entry under yellow flags, which meant he could be recovered to the Ferrari pit with just over 35 minutes remaining.
"We were quite busy obviously, we had a bit of an issue", Vettel said.
Elsewhere, Nico Hulkenberg was an impressive sixth for Renault, while his British team-mate Jolyon Palmer was 13th in the order.
Ricciardo was third in the evening session after being second fastest in the morning, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen fourth after his afternoon session went up in smoke, the Finn abandoning his smoking auto and trudging off in the desert heat.
"Some of these drivers are risky, man", he told his crew over the radio, though Hulkenberg is normally seen as a highly competent racer; he won the Le Mans 24 Hours classic in 2015 and was sixth fastest in that second session.
"Walking through the desert in 37C heat. Helmet on. Only the Iceman is cool enough to do it", the official formula1.com website observed on its Twitter feed. "Obviously, it's hard to learn much in FP1 with the extremely high temperatures, as the main sessions are under the lights in the evening when it's much cooler".
The Englishman was only 10th fastest in the first - having set the initial pace on Pirelli's medium and soft tyres - but in that session both he and Bottas, only 14th, ran in race trim and never ran with the low fuel loads favoured by their rivals.
They speeded up in the evening and did more laps than anyone. It's definitely tougher than before, driving in the heat with these new cars.
"It did about 50,000 pounds ($62,650) of damage so I think they should be banned on grounds of safety and cost", said Red Bull principal Christian Horner. "But I'm used to being in a Finnish sauna, so it's no problem", commented Bottas.
Verstappen's efforts were also thwarted by problems when he ran over the "t-wing" that flew off Bottas's Mercedes and damaged the floor of his Red Bull auto.
Max Verstappen in a Red Bull ran over the wing and suffered extensive damage to the floor of his auto, which reduced his running to only 18 laps in the floodlit session.
German driver Pascal Wehrlein, who missed the first two races with a back injury, returned with Sauber and was 18th and 19th in the two sessions. More worryingly for Ferrari Kimi Raikkonen stopped on track in the first session after hitting power unit issues.