MANAMA - McLaren team chief Martin Whitmarsh said on Monday that his team will be launching a full internal investigation into the pit-stop problems that threaten to derail the team's Formula One title challenge.
In the aftermath of defending double world champion German Sebastian Vettel's first win of the season for Red Bull in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, Whitmarsh confirmed he had changed the left-rear wheel-gun operator.
He also conceded that the escalating pit-stop problems could undermine McLaren's bid for the championship, as Briton Lewis Hamilton warned after he suffered two slow problematic stops during Sunday's race.
The two bungled wheel-changes cost him about 18 seconds in the race and wrecked his hopes of retaining the leadership of the drivers' championship as Vettel stormed to victory and swept back on top of the title race.
Hamilton said: "There should be an inquest because we gave away a lot of points which championships are lost through. So we have to try and make sure we pick up on them for the next race because we can't afford to lose points like we did."
Whitmarsh reacted to the sense of crisis - Hamilton's team-mate and fellow-Briton Jenson Button had suffered from a bungled pit-stop in the previous weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, costing him a chance of victory - by confirming the team would treat the whole issue seriously and urgently.
As Red Bull celebrated and led the rush to the airport to leave Bahrain after a weekend overshadowed by civil unrest and outbursts of violence, Whitmarsh promised swift action.
He said: "We'll review lots of things, but I don't think it's a criticism of one man as an individual. He's taken it very badly and it's our job to support him at the moment.
"Firstly, you have to say that any guy who volunteers to be a gun man in a team like this is a brave guy - and that's one of the reasons I have been speaking to him.
"I know how hard he is being on himself at the moment. These guys are all mechanics and they don't get paid extra for doing it.
"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.
"But we have got to look at the equipment, we have got to look at the process, we have got to look at the approach. So it's disappointing."
Hamilton finished eighth in the race, ending his run of three successive podium finishes that lifted him to the top of the drivers' championship. His pit-stops were both slowed down badly by problems with the left rear wheel.
Hamilton said: "I have no idea what went on, but I was hoping the second time I came in I wouldn't have that problem.
"I was hoping that it would be a good pit stop, but it was exactly the same, if not a little bit longer, than the previous one. There was a lot of ground lost."