The BBC's creative director Alan Yentob has said he would not rule out Jeremy Clarkson making a return to the corporation.
“Of course I wouldn't rule that out, but that's not for now,” he said.
Clarkson was sacked from presenting Top Gear yesterday after an inquiry into a “fracas” involving a producer on the programme.
Mr Yentob confirmed that Clarkson would continue to be employed until his contract expires at the end of the month.
It was “perfectly natural” for Hammond and May to have reservations about continuing Top Gear, he acknowledged.
He said Top Gear may continue if the other presenters quit but “it would be a disappointment to us obviously, to put it mildly, if that happened”.
Things you never knew about Top Gear
Things you never knew about Top Gear
1/14 Top Gear isn't really for adults
It's 'aimed at people with a mental age of nine', according to executive producer Andy Wilman.
2/14 Planet Earth loves it...
Top Gear is screened in more than 100 countries worldwide and has millions of fans.
3/14 ...but not all motoring hacks do
You might think Jezza was a hero of the motoring hack world but that's not strictly accurate. Telegraph journalist Neil Lyndon summed Top Gear's 21st birthday last year up well: 'Does that mean Billy Bunter and his gang finally get forced out of the Fourth Remove and into long trousers?'
4/14 The Top Gear theme tune is a classic rock song
Seven-minute instrumental 'Jessica' by The Allman Brothers was a hit in 1973. Top Gear has recorded its own version now but used part of the original recording at first. One for the road trip playlist.
5/14 Jeremy Clarkson couldn't get much more controversial if he tried
The presenter is currently suspended from the BBC following a 'fracas' with a producer over a steak dinner. Past scandals include a string of racism allegations.
6/14 This Porsche caused all sorts of trouble in Argentina
The Top Gear team were forced to flee Argentina after locals took offence at the car's number plate - believing it was a deliberately provocative reference to the Falklands War of 1982.
7/14 If it's car-buying advice you want, look elsewhere
It's an in-joke in Top Gear that they don't do car tests. You would be mad to make a purchases based on Jezza's verdict.
8/14 Richard Hammond had a near-death experience filming Top Gear
The 'Hamster' was filming a Top Gear segment in a dragster called Vampire when its front-right tyre burst at 288mph. Hammond spent two weeks in a coma but luckily went on to make a full recovery. He requested that no mention of the crash was made in future Top Gear episodes.
9/14 Jeremy Clarkson is more than a little bit taller than Richard Hammond
Nine inches, to be precise.
10/14 Top Gear used to offer real advice
Before these lads took over, it was a real car-reviewing show with presenters such as Angela Rippon, who gave practical reviews of down-to-earth workhorses such as Cavaliers or Mini Metros.
11/14 Those 'reasonably priced' cars take quite a battering
Denis Chick, of Vauxhall, is brave to have lent the show a fleet of his Astras. He said: "Vauxhall Astra sales would not improve if everyone drove like Jimmy Carr around the Dunsfold track." The comedian hilariously took his test car's front off-side tyre clean off its rim.
12/14 Jeremy Clarkson is a YouTube star
Stray down the motoring internet hole and you'll find lovingly posted videos of 'Clarkson the early years' with incredibly loud hair reviewing 1990s cars in an oddly sensible manner. Very disturbing viewing.
13/14 There have been multiple Stigs
Racing driver Perry McCarthy was stuntsman The Stig on the first two series of Top Gear - here's the man under that famous helmet.
14/14 Ben Collins was The Stig for eight years
Ben Collins was The Stig on Top Gear for eight years. He left amid a clash with the BBC when he unmasked his identity and published an autobiography. Collins thinks Top Gear has 'lost some of its sparkle'.
“It's perfectly natural for them. They are a team they have worked together for a very long time, they are all very attached. The question of what happens next for Top Gear is a conversation which must go on between the controller of BBC2 Kim Shillinglaw, between Andy (Wilman - producer of Top Gear) and the team.”
Speaking to BBC2's Newsnight programme Mr Yentob said that a decision to extend Top Gear's run to 12 shows may have been a mistake.
“The decision to extend, to do the run of 12 at once, was the decision of the team. In retrospect, was it the right decision? Well, that's a question that you would have to say probably it wasn't the right decision.
"Whether it would have led to these events is speculative. It's very difficult to say why this happened. Clearly, workload is one thing, the stress of the year, all the rest of it."
He said Mr Hall was "shocked" by the content of the report on Clarkson's actions, adding: ”I do know that this was a very difficult decision for Tony Hall to make.
“I know that he was saddened to have to make it but he felt he had no choice in the circumstances.”
Mr Yentob told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: “I know that the circumstances which he reviewed and the incident and what happened were things that shocked him and he felt it couldn't be sustainable.”
He clashed with presenter Eddie Mair over whether Clarkson should have been instantly dismissed rather than not having his contract renewed “when he has already suffered, he has lost his job”.
“Don't be ridiculous,” Mr Yentob said. “Yes, this man carried out a physical assault. Yes, he is employed. His contract is not being renewed and if you are talking about two or three days, when he is anyway in suspension - he is not actually working for the BBC - if you think that is shocking, Eddie you are kidding me.”
Turning to the future of Top Gear's other presenters May and Hammond, Mr Yentob said: “I very much hope that they are going to stay with the BBC and stay with Top Gear.
"I think that conversations will go on in the next few days and weeks about the future of the programme."
He added: "If Jeremy is not in it and Richard and James are, that needs to be a conversation with them as well. They need to be happy about what's going on and where they think the programme needs to be."Reuse content