Lewis Hamilton must cringe every time he enters the pits.
Life at McLaren is never dull.
They are capable of hitting incredible highs. In their 46 years, they have won 117 out 710 races they entered, secured 12 driver’s championships (second after Ferrari) and eight constructor’s championships (third after Ferrari and Williams).
In other words, they know success.
But for all they do right, they occasionally do it in a sea of bumbling that would make Inspector Clouseau shake his head in bewilderment.
In 2007, they were up to their elbows in the espionage controversy in which they obtained detailed Ferrari technical information from a disgruntled employee.
Whether or not McLaren actually used the data is irrelevant. Having the data was indefensible and although McLaren have heaped the blame onto one engineer, Mike Coughlan, it beggars belief that no one else at the team saw the documents or knew of their existence.
There were an awful lot of untruths told around what became known as Stepneygate (there we go again adding a ridiculous “gate” suffix to a conspiracy). McLaren didn’t learn the lesson and got caught out again for lying to the stewards at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix.
This time they stitched up Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, who was initially penalised for overtaking behind the safety car when Lewis Hamilton was instructed to let him pass.
This year, however, it has been pit stops that has been the Achilles' heel.
While both drivers have been the recipient of pit-lane incompetence, Lewis Hamilton seems to have copped the brunt of the ridiculousness.
In Bahrain, Hamilton was stranded in the pits for the Formula One equivalent of an eternity (about 10 seconds), while a guy who would not have been accepted as a AAA roadside service guy fumbled with his back wheel. Twice!
This followed a similarly inept effort in China.
In Monaco, they were not only slow in the pits, they neglected to get the message to Hamilton to push to avoid being passed by Sebastian Vettel as Red Bull showed how a quick pit stop should be done.
To top it off, the team kept dropping the letters and numbers from their pit board on Hamilton as he passed the pits.
And then came Valencia.
One moment, McLaren showed just how brilliant they can be—setting an all-time record of 2.6 seconds for a pitstop—before they held Hamilton up for over 14 seconds as they dropped the car off the jack before the front wheels were on.
This particular stuff-up was put down to a faulty jack—something that they must have suspected would be a problem as they had a spare on standby.
Traced back, the incident between Pastor Maldonado and Hamilton can be attributed to the time lost at that stop.
McLaren today reported on ESPNF1.com that they have fixed the issue with the jack and have done over 800 tests on the new unit without incident.
That will be cold comfort to Hamilton and it won’t recover the lost points. Such is racing.