McLaren wheel gun crew in firing line

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2012, 12:00am


How stressful is your job? Do you get home and need either a lie down in a darkened room or a stiff drink - or possibly both? If you think your job is full of pressure, spare a thought for the poor McLaren mechanic who has charge of the rear left wheel gun in Spain this weekend.

Given there have been three botched pit stops in the last two races it's not going to be a place for shrinking violets, no matter if your identity is hidden by helmet and overalls. In fact, McLaren changed the beleaguered gun man for the second stop in Bahrain and it still went wrong again, something that would suggest there is a problem with the rig that the team is using.

Whatever the reason, it can't be nice to be at the centre of such a storm. The team will have practised the pit stop countless times and it should go like clockwork. The guys themselves are not used to being the centre of attention, but it's a chance to be as close to the race action as those sitting on the pit wall.

It takes nerve, skill, physical strength and, it would seem, a thick skin. Lewis Hamilton, for one, was not impressed. Two slow pit stops in Bahrain dropped him from second to eighth place after losing around 18 seconds. This after Jenson Button suffered the same fate in China.

A full investigation has taken place within the team and you imagine McLaren will be in a position to do more than cross their fingers and hope in Barcelona this weekend.

Whatever has been found out, don't expect the poor, anonymous mechanic to be singled out. As team boss Martin Whitmarsh was keen to point out at the time: 'They put themselves in the firing line and under an enormous amount of pressure, so naturally I'm very protective of them because they deserve my protection. They're brave, they volunteer for it, they try hard and they know the pressure they are under'.

If McLaren can get that left rear tyre to go on smoothly, they will be in with a real chance this weekend, but then so will many others. Four races gone, four different teams have provided race winners. It's a really hard race - and season - to predict.

Somehow Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel leads the standings, but the world champion says the team has lost confidence after not dominating the season start like last year. Boss Christian Horner says that Barcelona may not provide its normal indicator of season dominance because the teams are so competitive.

Mercedes have had a historic win this season with Nico Rosberg, but teammate Michael Schumacher says racing on the Pirelli tyres is like driving on 'raw eggs'. Of course, the seven-time world champion's humour may not be helped by his measly two points in the championship (33 less than his compatriot).

Ferrari have won a race, but they are far from in a good place. Ferrari's president, Luca di Montezemolo, says a good showing this weekend could be a springboard for greater things this summer. He could be clutching at straws, but there will be a lot of new gear bolted onto the car.

It was on display last week when the teams returned to in-season testing for the first time in four years. Mugello track in Italy hosted the teams, and it wasn't just Ferrari who were trying out upgrades. Sauber and Lotus topped the time sheets on day two. For Lotus it was a continuation of their fabulous form in Bahrain, with both their drivers on the podium. Sauber are hoping to return to their form in Malaysia where Sergio Perez bagged second.

Given this state of flux, don't expect a prediction for the weekend's race, let alone the end of the season. It would take a brave person to place a bet on either outcome. It's better perhaps to sit back and let the action wash over you, luxuriating in a gloriously uncertain start to the season.