United States Grand Prix: Manor Marussia's Alex Rossi set for homecoming

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    Story highlights

    • Alexander Rossi will become the first American to race on a purpose-built U.S. circuit
    • The Manor Marussia man is America's first F1 driver in eight years
    • The Californian is also driving in F1's feeder series, GP2

    (CNN)It's been a moment 65 years in the making.

    This weekend, Alexander Rossi will make history by becoming the first American to race on a purpose-built Formula One circuit in the United States.
      For the 24-year-old, Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas is the culmination of 12 years of hard work.
      "I'm going to be the very first American F1 driver to race at the purpose built circuit in Austin," the Manor Marussia driver told CNN. "There's a lot of pride that goes along with that."
      Rossi is America's first F1 driver since Scott Speed raced for Toro Rosso in 2007, while you have to go back to 1978 to find the nation's last world champion -- Mario Andretti, who was born in Italy before immigrating to the U.S. and becoming a citizen.
      Rossi is currently competing in F1's feeder series, GP2 and since 2012, has held reserve driver roles at the defunct Caterham outfit and Manor.
      "There were quite a few times where it looked like I was going to have a race seat or do a race, but it never really came off."
      Rossi's dream finally came true in September, when he took a phone call he will never forget. The English team told him he was replacing Roberto Merhi for five of the last seven races this season.
      "To finally take the lights in Singapore and do my first race was an amazing thing. It didn't really hit me until 10 minutes before the race started. But, when it did, it was a very cool realization."
      "Those few minutes before the warm up was relief because I finally made it. You also realize that a whole other job starts, because you have to do the best job that you can to get a result," he added.
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      The Californian finished 14th at one of the hardest tracks on the calendar, ahead of his more experienced teammate, Will Stevens.
      Rossi missed the Russian Grand Prix due to his GP2 commitments, and he believes there is not much difference between the two formulas.
      "The biggest transition is mentally. In GP2, I know I'm in a car that can fight for race wins and you go into a weekend expecting and hoping to win," said Rossi.
      "Whereas in F1, due to the differences in performance in the cars we know we're restricted to a certain area of the grid.
      "For me it's about racing one other car and that's my teammate so it's a different mental approach. But at the end of the day, the cars are very similar" explained the American, who has won three GP2 races this season. "
      Sunday's race will serve as a sort of homecoming for Rossi, who left the country as a fresh-faced 16-year-old to chase his F1 dreams in Europe.
      Even with the pressure of racing at home, he knows he must remained focused if he wants to remain on the grid for 2016.
      "There's very few seats in F1 at this point. So for me it's really about maximizing the next three grand prixs and doing the best job I can to prove that I should be there next year," added Rossi.
      Rossi's arrival in F1 came soon after the death of Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman who drove for the Manor team died in July, nine months after he suffered severe head injuries in the 2014 Japanese GP.
      "What it did was cause an effect on a personal level and help us appreciate the things we have and the opportunities we have. It was an eye opening experience, but when you get in the race car, I don't think anything's changed," said Rossi, reflecting on the dangers of F1 and Bianchi's death.
      "We all constantly think about Jules and his family and we try to get the best results possible for him."
      Providing he can find a seat for next season, the U.S. could boast a driver, a grand prix and a team.
      Haas F1 is set to the become the country's first team for 30 years.
      Yet Rossi doesn't think it will be enough to boost the sport's popularity in a country where NASCAR and Indycar reign supreme.
      "At one point you need either of those to be successful because Americans want to be rooting not only someone in the sport, but are winning as well."