Ahead of my monumental F1 comparison (possibly due later this year, where I'll compare at least 98 PC games with F1 cars in!), here's a mini-comparison of how graphics evolved in PC F1 games, from 1986-2016.
I've taken screenshots from behind-the-car in games released every 5 years, so let's see how far graphics have come. All screenshots are at 2560x1440 resolution (some I upscaled). I was going to do 1920x1080, but the 4:3 aspect ratio games would need to run at 1440x1080 resolution, and not all of them support that (*cough cough ToCA Race Driver 3*). Click each to see them full size!1986: Pole Position (Namco/Atari/Datasoft)
This is the original PC conversion of the Namco arcade game. It only features the Fuji circuit from the 1980s. The game only supports CGA graphics in DOS, which means 4 colours (shown here in red, yellow, green and black, but it's also possible to have the lovely cyan, magenta, black and white colour scheme!). The original arcade game has since been ported back to PC several times (looking arcade perfect, as opposed to this...).1991: Mario Andretti's Racing Challenge (Distinctive Software/Electronic Arts)
This is one of the earliest polygon based racing games on the PC. It's fairly arcade and doesn't have many tracks. There's no behind-the-car view as such, hence this replay mode being shown.1996: Grand Prix 2/World Circuit Racing 2 (Microprose)
Geoff Crammond's legendary sequel to Formula One Grand Prix (aka World Circuit). The rear-view runs in a not-quite-fullscreen resolution, hence the borders. The only other F1 game released in 1996 was the first practically arcade perfect conversion of Pole Position, on Microsoft Return Of Arcade compilation pack.2001: F1 2001 (ISI/Electronic Arts)
Image Space Inc's third F1 game (as they released two in 2000!). Graphics have obviously come a long way. This game can be run at widescreen, but the image is stretched. Other F1 games released in 2001 were F1 Racing Championship, F1 World Grand Prix 2000, Grand Prix 3 2000 Season and Hot Wheels: Williams F1 Team Team Test Driver/Hot Wheels F1 Racer.2006: ToCA Race Driver 3 - The Ultimate Racing Simulator (Codemasters)
In the long dark years when Sony had the official F1 license, PC players had to make do with what they could get! This is Codemasters rather brilliant (though arcadey) ToCA Race Driver 3 (aka Pro Race Driver 3/DTM Race Driver 3). I prefer to capture this usually in 4:3 aspect ratio, as the widescreen resolutions simply crop the top and bottom of the image off (so you miss some of the in-car cockpit), but I stuck with 16:9 widescreen here, instead. Other F1 games released in 2006 were Golden Age of Racing, GP Championship 2 (aka World Car Championship/Grand Prix Simulator/GP Racing Die Simulation, Live For Speed and Starbet Racer - The Big Racing Fan Challenge 2006.2011: F1 2011 (Codemasters)
Codemasters second game on the PC, showing both a big jump from their game 5 years previous, and also a different starting point on the Silverstone circuit! Other F1 games released in 2011 were Game Stock Car/Game Stock Car 2012, RaceRoom - The Game 2, Cars 2 - The Game and Flatout 3 - Chaos & Destruction.2016: F1 2016 (Codemasters)
Finally, here's the latest game, 5 years after F1 2011. Other F1 games released in 2016 were Automobilista, RaceCraft and Wincars Racer.