Formula One has returned to the United States for the first time since the 2007 race, held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. The home of the United States Grand Prix has since moved to the newly-built, Hermann Tilke-designed Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, which represents a fresh challenge for all 24 drivers taking part this weekend.

This being the penultimate race on the 2012 F1 calendar, there are now only two drivers in contention of taking out the championship title: Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing.

Depending on the results, Sunday's race could see both Vettel and his Red Bull Racing team clinch their respective third consecutive Drivers' and Constructors' championships. Of course, Alonso and his Ferrari team will be doing everything possible to ensure that won’t happen.

Drivers will make 56 laps of the 3.43 mile circuit, where they will be faced with 20 turns (12 left-handers, 8 right) and three straights per lap, along with an elevation change of some 138 feet. As there have been no previous F1 races at the Circuit of The Americas, we can only rely on simulation results for a preview of what drivers and teams can expect.

Simulations suggest the circuit has more corners over 155 mph than Belgium’s Spa and more below 60 mph than Hungary’s Hungaroring. As Ferrari’s Felipe Massa puts it, “This track has, more or less, everything.”

A qualifying lap time of around 1:37 and a race lap time around 1:42 are predicted. Top speed should be as much as 195 mph.

Sole tire supplier Pirelli will be bringing its P Zero Silver hard and P Zero White medium tires for this inaugural race at the Circuit of The Americas. The weather at this time of year should be warm and dry, but rain is certainly not unheard of so just in case Pirelli is also bringing its Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet set as well.

As mentioned, we could see Vettel crowned the 2012 champion this weekend. Going into qualifying tomorrow, and Sunday’s eventual race, Vettel leads the Drivers’ Championship with 255 points, followed by Alonso on 245 points. In third place is Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen with 198 points.

In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull Racing leads the way with 422 points, followed by Ferrari with 340 points and McLaren in third with 318 points.

While you wait for today's first practice session, enjoy this preview lap courtesy of the guys at Pirelli.