Heikki Kovalainen bids big at Monaco charity auction

MONACO (Reuters) - Lotus Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen was the biggest bidder at a Monaco Grand Prix charity auction, shelling out 300,000 euros ($381,100) toward an AIDS project in Cambodia.

The auctioneer did not name the Finn but the former McLaren driver told Reuters after the event on Friday night that he had made the bid, although multi-millionaire team principal and Air Asia airline boss Tony Fernandes was also present.

"It is my money but Tony pays my salary," said Kovalainen. "I have been looking to do something for a long time. This is a good cause."

The sum will cover half the budget of a project to provide 320 permanent homes for 1,760 people living with AIDS/HIV in the country.

Organizers said the Elton John AIDS foundation would contribute a matching donation.

The seven lots at the Amber Lounge auction raised a total of 520,000 euros for the charity, including 50,000 splashed out by an anonymous bidder on a pair of black and white diamond cufflinks.

Formula One drivers, led by McLaren's 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, took part in a fashion show before the auction, attended by celebrities including former tennis great Boris Becker and actress Elizabeth Hurley.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Alastair Himmer)