DECEMBER 5, 2001
A number of teams have expressed the desire to keep the same numbers from year to year (as happened before the current system began in 1995) in order to make it easier for them to market their products without needing to change the numbers. In addition we understand that race organizers have also expressed the desire to have the same numbers from year to year to make life easier finding photographs with the right numbers displayed.
The old system was that the numbering system was not changed unless a team won the World Championship. In that case the winner exchanged the numbers with the team that had lost the title (as an example in 1980 Alan Jones won the title for Williams. His number 27 was given to Ferrari's Gilles Villeneuve in 1981 and went on to become famously linked to Villeneuve). If a World Champion retires the number 0 is given instead of number 1.
Although some teams are complaining about the switch back to the old system, there are no rules and to date no-one has proposed making a rule.