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Bottas’ one last chance to avoid winless season

Valtteri Bottas had hoped victory in Abu Dhabi a year ago would set him up for a season of success but, 20 races on and despite his Mercedes team again scooping both Formula One titles, it remains his last win.

The 29-year-old Finn has one last chance to avoid a season's blank, a rarity when driving a title-winning car, and travels to the Yas Marina circuit next week ready to start over with 2019 in mind.

"It is possible," he told Reuters, at a factory celebration of Mercedes' fifth successive title double and team mate Lewis Hamilton's fifth drivers' crown, when asked whether he could repeat last year's triple of pole, win and fastest lap.

"Last year, I had a strong weekend there, so definitely it is possible.

"Obviously, the field is now closer than last year but my only target for the weekend is going to be pole and win, so I am going to be trying everything I can to do that.

"It will make the winter break a bit nicer."

Hamilton had to settle for second in Abu Dhabi last year, denied his 10th win of the campaign but with the title already secure.

This time, he has already won 10 times in 2018 - his average over the past five seasons - and clinched the title early again.

Bottas, meanwhile, has been unlucky and loyal, denied by a puncture three laps from the end while leading in Azerbaijan last April and obeying team orders in Russia in September to let Hamilton pass after starting on pole.

He is not expecting any special favours now, even with the titles won.

"He deserves a win, but he's got to go and win it," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. "He has the capability to do so."

Bottas accepts the early season setbacks as part of the sport. "I know that I have it in me and the last few races have been tough. I've been definitely missing those successful moments," he said.

"I miss that feeling, and I know that once I get some good results under me again, then it's going to go in a better direction. So I'm really looking forward to next year." - REUTERS