Formula One teams have persuaded the sport's ruling body to allow the numbers displayed on cars next season to reflect the 2001 championship standings.

FIA, the world body, had triggered a minor controversy this week by announcing that beginning next year the numbers would no longer reflect where teams had finished the previous year, as had always been the case, but would follow the 2000 standings instead.

Since the top three teams were the same this year as they were in 2000, it was the smaller teams which felt their achievements would not be recognized.

For instance Sauber, which enjoyed its best season ever by finishing fourth in the constructors' standings, would have been forced to retain its 2000 numbers of 16 and 17 rather than a more exalted seven and eight. Renault, formerly Benetton, would have raced with numbers seven and eight rather than the lower 14 and 15 that reflect more accurately the team's poor season.

The Autosport website had quoted Swiss team boss Peter Sauber as saying a team fights a whole year to achieve a better ranking on paper, to advance further in the pit lane and to get lower car numbers,

World champions Ferrari will keep numbers one and two, with title holder Michael Schumacher of Germany retaining number one. McLaren keeps three and four and the Williams team will again have the numbers five and six on its race cars.

The new Formula One season starts on March 3.