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2012-03-24 08:28

BURNING UP THE TRACK: Lotus-Renault driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland on track in Sepang - later the team's hospitality suite was gutted by fire. Image: AFP

SEPANG, Malaysia - Fire gutted the Lotus hospitality suite at the Sepang track ahead of the 2012 Malaysian F1 GP and caused smoke and soot damage to Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean's race gear.

Nobpody was hurt in the overnight blaze, believed to have been started by a faulty fridge, which forced the abandonment of the two-storey temporary suite being used for this weekend's GP.

BUMPY WEEK

However equipment belonging to ex-World champion Raikkonen and team mate Grosjean was being hurriedly cleaned for Saturday's qualifying session after being coated with soot. Raikkonen's spare helmet "perished in the blaze", a statement said.

The hiccup has added to an already bumpy week so far for Lotus, whose main driver Raikkonen has been penalised five grid places for Sunday's race after fitting a new gearbox.

Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who spent the previous two years in World rallying, started 18th on the grid at the season-opener in Australia, although he fought through the field to finish the race seventh.

"The team asks for forgiveness for certain personnel who have entered the fire-damaged facility as they will be rather smoke-fragranced today," a Lotus statement said.

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