It has been an up and down time for Nikola Tsolov so far in FIA Formula 3. The Bulgarian rookie has yet to score a point but can feel the points potential in his #9 ART Grand Prix car.

Tsolov was one of those who suffered a tough time in Monte Carlo after a dramatic Qualifying meant he started outside of the top 12. From that point on, around a track that is so difficult to overtake on, the ART driver’s hopes of points were limited.

With last weekend in the books, Tsolov is fully focused on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and is hoping to bounce back with his maiden F3 points finish. Making sure he is nearer the front will go a long way in ensuring that outcome.

“It’s just step by step for me. A little step forward would put me at the front on Saturday because of the reverse grid,” he explained. “It’s kind of just about putting everything together. Up until now, we’ve been solidly in the top 10 but never managed to get a clean Qualifying, so that’s my goal and I think that’s the most important part of the weekend.

“Qualifying is always important. I think it’s the most important part of F3, Having a good Qualifying means it’s so much easier in the race. It obviously depends on the track. Like in Spa-Francorchamps, it’s still important but not as much.”

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Barcelona has been something of a happy hunting ground in the past for Tsolov. The Bulgarian was in immense form during his last visit to the circuit, sweeping the Spanish F4 weekend with three race wins and a trio of fastest laps in 2022.

While he isn’t expecting to repeat to those high standards this weekend, arriving at a track he knows for the first time in 2023 is a confidence boosting prospect for the 16-year-old.

“I feel quite excited for this weekend. It’s the first track on the calendar I know, so it’s definitely going to be a help for me. I’ve been improving throughout the season a lot. In Monaco I was looking quite good but a little mistake in Qualifying compromised the weekend so I’m excited to be here.

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“It’s definitely not going to be way easier than before because a couple of people already know the track and done a couple of races here in different categories. I’ve only done one race weekend in Spanish F4. It definitely went well, so it’s still helpful.”

Changes to the circuit since his and everyone else’s last visit for a competitive race weekend means that tyre degradation could be even more critical than in the past.

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With the removal of the final chicane in Sector 3, the lap now ends with two fast right-hand sweeps onto the main straight. That in turn could lead to the front axle being the most limiting factor for everyone on the grid. Keeping the tyres under control, limiting degradation and ensuring he is in a position to pounce should anyone in front struggle is the target for Tsolov.

“I think it’s still going to be quite difficult to pass because in the end, we exit the last corner much quicker than we used to. We would be flat through the last corner before whereas now we have to lift. So it’s going to be pretty similar to how it was before.

“Then in terms of tyre deg, it changes quite a bit because you have a lot of corners that are right-handers, so the left side tyres are going to be struggling a lot, but it’s going to be interesting. A lot of people will start degrading and maybe if you manage it well, you can start overtaking.”