The game was released on September 14, 1990, and the word "circus" was meant to be a mistranslation of the word "circuit" (or "circuits") because the pageantry of Formula One racing slightly resembles a circus. It is loosely based on the 1991 Formula One season, F1 Circus is considered to be a representation of the average Formula One game for the PC-Engine. Players can modify their vehicles and customize their race cars, while racing through top-viewed tracks that appear to be going mostly straight up in a fast-paced speed, instead of any other direction.
On February 7, 1992, F1 Circus was later efficiently ported to the Family Computer. Although featuring cover art from the PC-Engine version, the content in this version is closer to that of the sequel, F1 Circus '91.
On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the PC Engine version of the game a 31 out of 40.