Magnussen in race for Malaysian GP second session after fire

The car of Danish driver Kevin Magnussen is engulfed in flames in the pit during the first free practice session of the Formula One Malaysia Grand Prix in Sepang. (AFP)

Renault said they were working frantically to get Kevin Magnussen out for a second free practice after a dramatic pit lane fire at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Friday.

Magnussen, who had returned with smoke coming from his engine cover after just one lap of the morning's first practice session, was forced to leap to safety when fire broke out outside the Renault garage.

Pit crew were quickly on the scene with extinguishers, but with fuel spilling out across hot engine parts, the flames reappeared several times and the session was red-flagged after just 11 minutes as smoke filled the air and foam and powder from extinguishers covered the pit lane.

Renault technical chief Nick Chester said his mechanics were pushing to prepare the car - which amazingly was not badly damaged - in the two-and-a-half-hours between sessions.

"We had a fuel leak from a breather," Chester told Sky Sports television. "We were running the tank full. Everyone is OK, which is the main thing.

"Fortunately the car doesn't seem to be too badly damaged, and we will try to get him out for FP2. There's a fair bit of work to do, but we'll try."

When the session got back under way after a 15-minute delay, the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg set the fastest time ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

The second Renault of Jolyon Palmer by contrast had a trouble-free 90 minute practice to be 19th on the timing sheets.