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Fire hits Lotus at Malaysian GP

Lotus F1 Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland walks in the paddock area following the second practice session of the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit outside Kuala Lumpur March 23, 2012. — Reuters picLotus F1 Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland walks in the paddock area following the second practice session of the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit outside Kuala Lumpur March 23, 2012. — Reuters pic

SEPANG, March 24 — Fire gutted the Lotus hospitality suite at the Malaysian Grand Prix Saturday, causing smoke and soot damage to Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean’s race gear.

Officials said no one was hurt in the overnight blaze, believed to have been started by a faulty fridge, AFP news agency reported.

But equipment belonging to ex-world champion Raikkonen and Grosjean was being hurriedly cleaned for Saturday’s qualifying session after being coated with soot. Raikkonen’s spare helmet “perished in the blaze”, the report quoted a Lotus statement as saying.

The hiccup adds to a bumpy week so far for Lotus, whose main driver Raikkonen has been penalised five grid places for tomorrow’s race after fitting a new gearbox.

Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who spent the last two years in rallying, started 18th on the grid at last weekend’s season-opener in Australia but 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,” the Lotus statement was quoted as saying.

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