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Mercedes hold secret test in France as they scramble to close gap with Red Bull and Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team have held a secret testing session in a desperate bid to get their 2022 F1 campaign up and running.

In what has been torrid start for the Silver Arrows, and Hamilton in particular, the W13 cars have been way off the pace set by front-runners Ferrari and Red Bull. The seven-time world champion is already 68 points adrift of championship leader Charles Leclerc, ahead of the sixth race of the season in Barcelona this week.

Mercedes have been plagued by 'porpoising' thus far, affecting their straight-line speed. However, Toto Wolff's team are expected to bring a number of new parts to the Circuit de Catalunya in the hope of combating the problem.

And it is understood that Hamilton's team-mate George Russell drove the revamped Mercedes at a behind-closed-doors test at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France on Wednesday. Despite the secrecy, Mercedes are not in breach of any rules with F1 teams allocated two filming days each season.

Russell, who is 23 points ahead of Hamilton in the championship standings, completed the permitted 62 miles of running - equivalent to a third of a race distance. Hamilton has won six of the past eight titles, and was only denied the crown in 2021 after a deeply contentious season finale in Abu Dhabi.

But having gone toe-to-toe with Verstappen last season, Mercedes have clearly fallen behind Ferrari and Red Bull in the pecking order. The British icon was one second a lap slower than his rivals at the Miami Grand Prix a fortnight ago.

Mercedes have moved to address the problems encountered so far by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell (XPB/Press Association Images)

Fernando Alonso, who won two world championships in 2005 and 2006, has argued that despite Hamilton's struggles, the driver himself is not to blame: "Lewis is driving as good as he has been in the last eight years," said Alonso, in an interview with the BBC.

"He was dominating the sport and breaking all the records, and now he is doing a mega lap and he is one second behind. This is F1. It happened to me when I won two championships. I was beating Michael Schumacher.

"This was a big topic, but my car was more reliable at that time, had very good performance, and you cannot praise the package enough because the headlines will still be the driver. With Lewis it's been the same."

Hamilton heads to Spain with more than car issues on his mind though. He's currently facing a potential ban from the Monaco Grand Prix following an FIA clampdown on jewellery.

Initially, Hamilton responded to the warning by turning up for media duties in Miami sporting multiple watches, necklaces, and earrings. However, he then reached a compromise with officials, agreeing to remove his earrings whilst competing.

He was only given a two-race exemption over his nose studs though, arguing surgery would be needed to remove them. That period expires this weekend, ahead of the Monaco race on May 29.

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