Formula One: Max Verstappen delivers on promise with stunning performance

Verstappen (left) talks with a mechanic during the third training session in Spain.
Verstappen (left) talks with a mechanic during the third training session in Spain.PHOTO: EPA

BARCELONA (AFP) - Max Verstappen delivered on his promise with a stunning first qualifying for Red Bull on Saturday to secure fourth place on the grid for his debut race with the team in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.

'Just watch me go' had been the message from the Dutch teenager in the run-up to the event and, with a nerveless display of speed, he demonstrated exactly why he was promoted unexpectedly from Toro Rosso to replace Russian Daniil Kvyat.

At one stage, during Q3, the 18-year-old was the second fastest man in the field and ahead of all the world champions - and it took inspired laps from Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo to push him back.

"I enjoyed that qualifying session and it was getting better with every lap," said Verstappen.

"For me, the target was to enjoy myself and I had a good feeling in the car.

"I focused on what I had to do and it worked. I'm happy. I didn't expect to adapt to the car so quickly. I didn't expect to be on the second row so, for me, it's a positive feeling.

"We are close to a podium and hopefully we can keep our positions in tomorrow's race..."

Verstappen's presence had an immediate galvanizing affect on Ricciardo and the team annexed the second row of the grid ahead of Ferrari, the team that had wanted the Dutchman to join them next season.

"That was an amazing performance from both of our drivers," said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

"It was a phenomenal final lap by Daniel Ricciardo...

"He had only one set of tyres in Q3, but he made the most of them and nailed his best lap of the weekend to line up third.

"Max Vertsappen, making his debut for the team this weekend, has proved to be the sensation that we know he is..."

Australian Ricciardo admitted that the arrival of Verstappen had pushed him.

"I knew I had one lap and I knew I had the pace," he said.

"So, it was about putting it all together and, until then, I hadn't..."

Verstappen, who has already scored 62 points in his career, hopes on Sunday to add to that total and make a lasting impression in his first outing with the former champion team.

Meanwhile, Verstappen's father Jos revealed he would be stepping down from managing his teenage son's career.

After guiding him to a seat with the Red Bull team, the Dutchman, who raced for Benetton and Arrows in his own career two decades ago, said he felt he had done his job.

"I think, at this stage of his career, it's better to take another step back because he is now where he needs to be and it's about Max - and not about his dad," Verstappen senior told reporters in the paddock at the Circuit de Catalunya.

"I did my job until now - and he is in a top team now, where he should be, and it's fine.

"I've stopped a column with a newspaper because I don't want to be in the front now. I want to be in the back.

"Now, it's up to Helmut Marko and Christian Horner and up to Max - to say what they want to say. It's not up to me.

"I'm here as a father. The only thing I want to say is I'm very happy with what he has done today."