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The crisis is over. At least that is how it seems on the eve of arguably the most important Formula 1 season for a long time.

After three years in which the sport agonised over declining television audiences, a lack of competition on the track, uninspiring cars and an apparently large number of disgruntled fans, F1 seems to be back on track.

The cars that will race for the first time in Melbourne on Sunday are an attempt to put visceral thrills back in a sport many felt had lost its way.

The rule-makers had a simple target - cars that were up to five seconds a lap faster, that tested the drivers to their physical and technical limits, which they could drive flat out most of the time and which looked, well, sexy again. At the same time, overtaking should not be any harder than it already was.

The message from two weeks of testing in Spain was the goals have been achieved. Except maybe the last one.

And - whisper it for now - more than one team might even be able to win.

"The car is amazing in terms of the speed we carry through the corners," three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said of his Mercedes. "It is definitely the fastest I have ever been in F1."

"They look cool," says Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo. "They look pretty mean. And low and fat. Kind of old-school. It is going to be fun." - BBC -