Kimi Raikkonen's hopes of starting Sunday's Grand Prix of Malaysia at Sepang from a better position than he had in Melbourne took a hit today when the Lotus F1 team said they were going to have to change his gearbox before Saturday's practice and qualifying sessions.

"A bit more work for Kimi's crew this evening," said a tweet on the team's official Twitter page. "An issue with Kimi's gearbox so we're changing it now."

The issue is thought to be a result of overheating damage related to an off-track excursion for the car at last weekend's Australian Grand Prix, according to various media sources including the BBC.

Related Articles

An unscheduled gear box change during a race weekend will normally invoke a five place grid penalty for the car involved, as happened last week in Melbourne when Sergio Perez' gearbox failed midway through the Saturday qualifying session. Under the 2012 regulations, gearboxes are required to last five races.

Due to the lateness of the hour in Kuala Lumpur, which is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, the changeover of gearbox and consequent penalty has not been officially announced or confirmed by FIA race officials.

Raikkonen finished in seventh place in Friday morning's practice times but fell back to 15th position in the afternoon timesheets.

Last week at Melbourne the former world champion failed to get through the first round of qualifying on his return to F1 after two years away from the sport, and ended up starting from 18th on the grid. He then battled his way through to finish in the points in seventh place by the time the chequered flag came out.