Top Gear: 'BBC has offered Richard Hammond and James May £4.6 million to return'

The presenters have previously said they won't return without Jeremy Clarkson

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Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear sidekicks Richard Hammond and James May have been offered salaries of around £1 million a year each to return to the motoring show.

The duo, who signalled their departure from the hit BBC car programme soon after Clarkson was sacked, would become among the corporation’s highest earners if they were to agree.

Despite making it clear previously that they have no wish to return to the show without Clarkson, an attractive offer to return has reportedly been made to Hammond and May to continue for another two or three series.

The entire cost of the remuneration package to the BBC is estimated at around £4.6 million.

The £1.15 million they would each take home is an increase on the £500,000 salaries they are believed to have previously earned.

The pay rise would put them on a par with Clarkson's earnings prior to his contract expiration, The Times reports.

The speculation comes amid rumours that the broadcaster is not planning to replace Clarkson directly, but to have a guest host on each show in the model of Have I Got News For You following Angus Deayton’s departure.

A top BBC source told The Independent: “The masterplan is to reconfigure the show along the lines of the post-Angus Deayton Have I Got News for You?, with a different guest hosting each episode.

“Despite their pronouncements of loyalty to Clarkson, Hammond and May have taken the trouble not to resign in protest at his sacking…[and] have each been offered £1m a year to keep the Top Gear flame of inspired puerility alive.”

A spokesman for Hammond declined to comment, while May's representative could not be reached.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "We do not comment on speculation."

All three men's contracts ran out earlier this year and the BBC refused to renew Clarkson's after his much-publicised attack on producer Oisin Tymon.

Top Gear's former executive producer - and old school friend of Clarkson - Andy Wilman has left the show, which sparked rumours he was joining up with all three men to make an alternative programme, with Netflix and ITV among the broadcasters rumoured to be in the running to show it.

BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw, the woman tasked with putting the programme back together after Clarkson's exit, has previously refused to rule out a return to the show for May and Hammond.

Speaking in April, she said conversations were "ongoing" with the pair and confirmed scenes filmed before Clarkson was suspended were likely to air this summer.