The 41-year-old still had a year remaining on his contract with GRM and was preparing to start the new season as the oldest person on the starting grid following the retirement of Craig Lowndes.
However, his full-time driving career was instead ended 12 months early as he was replaced by Tickford Racing reject Richie Stanaway.
Tander, who has won at Bathurst three times in his long career, will instead pair up with Shane van Gisbergen in the No. 97 after it was confirmed Lowndes would reunite with Jamie Whincup in the other Triple Eight car.
The partnership will be “at least” two years and will see Tander co-drive for SVG at Gold Coast 600 and Sandown 500, as well as at Mount Panorama in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
“Triple Eight have clearly been the class team in Supercars for the best part of the last decade, their results speak for themselves,” Tander said.
“When the opportunity arose to join the team alongside Shane for the enduros it was clearly the best way for me to transition from a full-time driver to a co-driver in this next phase of my career.
“Shane has come so close at the mountain a couple of times in the last few years, I’ve been close a few times in the last few years, so while the mountain doesn’t owe anyone anything, if you keep putting yourself up the front at that race, eventually the cards can fall your way.”
Van Gisbergen himself said he hoped Tander would give him the final push he needs to win Bathurst, having previously driven together during Australian GT.
“As far as experience goes, there’s probably not many better drivers,” he said. “Craig is back driving with Jamie, which is fitting, and if you can’t have Craig then Garth is definitely the best person to have on your team.”
Mercedes have revealed they discovered car damage on Lewis Hamilton’s Silver Arrow after the world champion’s defeat in the Australian GP.
Hamilton was spotted inspecting his car immediately after the race and Mercedes later reported: “We have discovered damage to Lewis’ floor in the area just in front of the left-rear tyre. There is a chunk of the floor missing, but we are not 100 per cent sure why yet.”
But Hamilton offered no excuses for his failure to translate pole position at Albert Park into victory on race day with the Englishman beaten by over 20 seconds by Valtteri Bottas.
“It was definitely my best race ever,” said Bottas. “The car was perfect. It was truly enjoyable.”
Hamilton’s experience was rather less so.
While excessive wheel spin was blamed for his sluggish getaway, Hamilton then struggled to match Bottas’ pace before an early stop to cover off Sebastian Vettel triggered a lengthy second stint on the slower medium tyres.
But as Sky F1’s Paul Di Resta declared: “I don’t remember when we last saw Lewis Hamilton beaten fair and square like this.”
Vettel’s struggles were even more perplexing, with the Ferrari driver even reduced to asking him team mid-race: “Why are we so slow?”
Overtaken by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen late on, Vettel said after the race: “I was just slow.”
Verstappen’s podium represented Honda’s first podium in a decade following their switch during the winter to become Red Bull’s new power providers.
It’s far too early to make definitive statements about Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault but what is clear from his Australian Grand Prix disaster is that he is not going to emulate Lewis Hamilton in the foreseeable future.
Like, Ricciardo, Hamilton took a huge gamble when leaving race-winning McLaren for a team with no recent success in Formula 1 in Mercedes.
Unlike Ricciardo, however, he got off to a good start, with a 5th-place finish in Melbourne, followed by two podiums in Malaysia and China.
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With Bahrain up next on the F1 calendar, all eyes will be on Ricciardo and Renault to see if his homecoming from hell was just a one-off, or if it is just the beginning.
Renault came into the new season as the ‘best of the rest’, with giddy aspirations of challenging Red Bull with their new, apparently “unreliable” Honda engines and leaving their battle with Haas in 2018.
Ricciardo’s horrid GP start
Questions were even asked of Ricciardo during Thursday’s press conference whether he felt he could mount a serious challenge to the man sitting to his left and his former teammate Max Verstappen.
All of these questions proved irrelevant, with it clear Ricciardo’s biggest challenge actually comes from within his own garage, from the German Nico Hulkenberg.
Once coveted as a future world champion, for one reason or another Hulkenberg has never made a move to one of the top teams, perhaps in part due to his unwanted record of so far never claiming a step on the podium.
But there is more to it than that. Hulkenberg has also never been beaten by a teammate and only once been out-qualified – in his rookie year against Rubens Barrichello.
The 31-year-old, two years Ricciardo’s senior, has also been at Renault since 2017, knows all the names, where everything is and also how the car best fits him. Ricciardo is still learning all of this.
This is highlighted as early as FP2 on Friday afternoon when adjustments needed to be made to Ricciardo’s “gentleman area” – as reserve driver Jack Aitken so neatly put it – meaning his seat was taken half out of his car and his session was cut by nearly a third.
Hulkenberg was quicker than Ricciardo every time they both hopped in the car this weekend, except for FP3, and ultimately snatched a well-deserved 7th place.
“The car’s alright,” Ricciardo said. “Nico did seventh, so I think we can be consistently a points car and keep building.
“I’m excited for the battles we’re going to have. I wasn’t under any illusion that he wouldn’t be fast because he is.
“He can have today, obviously I wouldn’t like to let him have me at home but I’ll make sure I get him at Hockenheim, among others, but at Hockenheim I’ll make sure I put a target on him.”
But it is the battle with Hulkenberg for which Ricciardo will be judged, in the same car with the same conditions. If he cannot win this then questions will be asked whether he can lead a top team, as he left Red Bull to prove. Was he just a good driver in a better car?
Of course, it is too early to have an answer to this question, but the question is still there nonetheless.
Less than half of Australian Grand Prix winners go on to win the World Championship, which proves how irrelevant this result is in the grand scheme of things, and Ricciardo – and Hulkenberg – will know that.
One race down, 21 to go. The Renault civil war between these two could well be one of the most gripping subplots of the championship.
“I think in terms of speed throughout the race it was a very good step forward to last year just compared to the top speeds against the other two top teams,’’ Verstappen told reporters.
“I am very pleased with that and also I think in general the engine has been performing very well without any issues, which is also very important.
“I guess time will tell if we can fight for top spot.”
The energy-drink outfit were still a long way behind Bottas, and are widely expected not to challenge for the title. Nonetheless, they may challenge for more wins in 2019, which Ricciardo will miss out on.
Ricciardo’s move was based on having a fresh start though, and it would likely take only a championship for him to regret the move.
NICO HULKENBERG GIVES RICCIARDO HOPE
Ricciardo is unlikely to challenge the top six with any regularity in 2019, but his teammate Nico Hulkenberg showed on Sunday that Renault can live up to being the best of the rest.
The Australian said after qualifying on Saturday that he felt his new package was quick enough to finish in the top eight.
And now there is evidence to those claims after Hulkenberg jumped from his grid position of 11th to claim a seventh-place finish.
The only driver to finish above him not from the big three was Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Despite his disappointment, Ricciardo said after the race he believes Hulkenberg’s finish was representative of Renault’s pace, and that he is looking forward to exploring it in Bahrain.
“I think that’s where the car belongs. I think we should be a top eight car for all of the first part of the season, then hopefully even better,” he told Sky F1.
“Bahrain is going to be a lot easier.
“It’s a bit like a holiday week, there’s not much going on so I can actually prepare properly.”
THIS IS A DIFFERENT VALTTERI BOTTAS
From no wins in 2018 to his “best race ever” – this isn’t the Valtteri Bottas we’ve come to know.
How many drivers can say they’ve crushed a five-time world champion teammate by more than 20 seconds at the season opener?
The Finn can say that now after he left Lewis Hamilton in his dust at Albert Park and laid down a serious marker for 2019.
Bottas explained before the season that he got “properly smashed” back home during an off-season of soul-searching.
“When I came back I decided that I’m going to beat everyone this year,” he added.
They were bold, fighting words which only a few took seriously given he hadn’t won a race since November 2017 despite driving for F1’s premiere team.
But Bottas showed on Sunday that he is not only prepared to talk the talk this season, but he can walk the walk.
Whether there was a problem with Hamilton’s set-up, or Bottas was genuinely untouchable only time can tell.
Either way, there’s something different about Bottas this year – and it’s a good thing.
FERRARI A TOTAL NO-SHOW
Vettel’s mid-race question on team radio said it all.
“Why are we so slow?” he asked his pit wall. No one seems to have an answer for that.
Vettel also didn’t have an answer for the pace of Mercedes on Sunday, and was even passed on-track by Red Bull’s Verstappen.
He finished in fourth, while new recruit Charles Leclerc came home in fifth.
It was the first time since 2014 there wasn’t a Ferrari driver on the Melbourne podium.
“I guess we were just slow,” Vettel said after the race.
“I was struggling with the tyres, but even ignoring the lap I pitted, it looks like everyone else was having way less problems than I was.”
1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill said Ferrari looked “crestfallen” after the race, having been touted as the strongest team to come out of pre-season testing.
“They’re not where they expected to be,” he said on Sky F1. “They’re not on the podium and Ferrari have work to do.”
“They’ve gone from hero to not zero, but they’ve fallen a long way down from where they started going into the weekend.”
“Ferrari genuinely have no idea why their pace is so lacking,” added Sky F1 pitlane reporter and former driver Karun Chandhok during the race.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN CURSED IN MELBOURNE
Haas driver Romain Grosjean started the race with the worst finishing record at Albert Park of any driver on the grid.
He had retired from the race a whopping five times.
But now that grim record has become even worse, after the Frenchman was forced to retire on Sunday when his tyre worked its way loose.
That forced him down the escape road at the penultimate turn but he ultimately couldn’t make it down pit lane to fix the issue.
The retirement means Grosjean has only finished the Australian Grand Prix twice since his first race there for Lotus in 2012.