Not sure if something like this has been done before, but thought I'd share the results of an analysis I ran of quickest lap times since 1996. So these are the quickest times of the weekend, whether they were set in qualifying (as in most cases), during practice (if e.g. qualifying was wet) or the race (as occasionally happened during the qualify with race fuel era). Why from 1996? Well that corresponds with Melbourne joining the calendar, which is the track of the 2017 season which has been substantially altered least recently (i.e. never; NB even Interlagos has changed in that time, with the Laranjinha corner reprofiled in 2014).
So firstly we have the average quickest lap time as a proportion of the 2016 times:
A couple things to note. Obviously the further back you go the smaller the 'sample size'. i.e. for 1996 the proportion is based off Melbourne alone, while for 1997-99 it's based off Melbourne and A1-Ring. This is important to note because, as I found out, performance differs wildly from track to track in terms of changes over time (for example between 2004 and 2006, cars got dramatically quicker at Suzuka, while slowing at Bahrain). And then things like weather, track conditions and time of year also play a part.
In particular, it's likely that results for 2003, 2004 and 2005 would be much better than they're made out to be in this chart. That's because qualifying runs were set with race fuel and we didn't have low fuel runs in Q2 like we did in 2006-09 that would give us a very close, if not exact, read on the ultimate pace of the cars (I realise in 03 and 04 we had 'pre-qualifying', but times in this session were often improved upon in the real, race fuel qualifying, showing how much drivers were leaving on the table).
Secondly, the evolution of lap times on the three tracks we've had so far in 2017, including 2017 times. Here we express each year's quickest time as a proportion of the 2017 time:
Note the dramatic increase in times with the switch from V10 to V8 engines, which had almost zero effect on Melbourne's times.