But I don't think it's about 'clever' or 'stupid' proactive choices by strategists so much as necessity. McLaren's pitstop requirements are driven by the demands of the car which means they can't pick and choose whether to beat the traffic or not, just pit whe they have to. That's not strategy. Red Bull are in a different place with a car they know is capable of winning and can afford to compromise on pitstop timing in order to make it work on the circuit.
When the car is fast again, and McLaren are on the podium, perhaps we can then talk about hapless pitstops and dumb choices.
I agree with you that some other teams have more choices, particularly Lotus. But that doesn't mean that McLaren have no choices at all.
Like other teams, McLaren will have a plan A which they think will be the fastest way to run the race. I'm sure it would involve stopping on specific laps, changing to specific tyres (compound, new or used).
All their choices revolve around the extent to which they will amend that strategy as the race unfolds, or possibly switch to a different strategy. Actual tyre deg is obviously a major factor in that decision, but not the only factor. If they pit earlier than projected, that will tend to hurt their strategy (unless there is a big advantage in pitting earlier). If they can pit later, it helps by shortening the remaining stints.
Let's look at some choices they might have to make in a typical race:1. By pitting one lap earlier than planned, they can get the driver into clean air with slower cars behind him.
That would always be a good choice. The benefit of clean air and lower tyre deg from not having to fight for position on track would definitely outweigh the extra lap they would have to do in one of the remaining stints. If they don't make this choice, they can legitimately be called 'stupid'.2. Same scenario, but now the car they are beating to the undercut is actually much faster, so their driver will have to defend continuously.
Now it's not so clear cut. Near the end of the race, the undercut might be a good choice. Early in the race, it would destroy their strategy with the higher deg it would bring.3. Same scenario as the first one, but now they have to pit 5 laps earlier than they planned, instead of just one lap earlier, to get that clean air.
Again it's not so clear cut, and with a car like the current McLaren, it might be wiser to miss this opportunity, since you would risk having to make an extra pitstop.
Of course we don't actually know what the target lap is, so in any particular case we don't know whether they needed to pit 1 or 5 laps early. But if they had the opportunity to stay ahead, passed it up and then pitted the very next lap, which they did twice in a row in Bahrain, we can be quite certain that they made a bad choice. Doing a single extra lap on a stint is never going to be worthwhile if it loses you track position. That looks very much like the stupid move in scenario 1 above.
After they'd allowed themselves to be undercut in Bahrain, if they then did a few more laps before pitting, that would look more like scenario 3 above, and would be a valid choice.
The situation doesn't always arise that McLaren have clear-cut good and bad choices. But when they do, and they make the bad choice, I'm going to be calling them a bunch of names.