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.
Getty Jeremy Clarkson is involved in further controversy over a second set of number plates found in the vehicle he was driving in Argentina A screengrab from Jeremy Clarkson's video apology PA
Jeremy Clarkson's Top 25 Most Obnoxious Lines
Jeremy Clarkson's Top 25 Most Obnoxious Lines
"Short people. When you've finished using a car, put the f**king seat back, so humans can use it afterwards," he posted on Twitter. Offensively.
"Honestly, the burka doesn’t work. I was in a cab in Piccadilly the other day when a woman in a full burka crossing the road in front of me tripped over the pavement, went head over heels and up it came, red G-string and stockings."
Driving a Jaguar round a toilet in India: "This is perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots."
"The only person who looked good in a 4-seated convertible was Adolf Hitler."
As a Thai man walked over a bridge he had built during a Top Gear challenge: "That is a proud moment - but there’s a slope on it."
On the Renault Clio V6 handling bends: "In typical French fashion it just gives up! A bit like the French did with the Germans."
"I'm thinking. If you had gone to the trouble of making a chemical bomb, why would you detonate it on a coach from Preston?"
On public sector workers in 2011: “I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.”
"I don't understand bus lanes. Why do poor people have to get to places quicker than I do?"
"The only reason the Arabs and Jews have managed to keep their nasty little war going for 50 years is because it never bloody rains there. If the post-war powers had put Israel in Manchester, there'd have been no bloodshed."
"If all the creatures on earth were the same size, it's said a lobster would have the smallest brain. But then someone invented Wayne Rooney."
On the invention of the segway: "They're made in America, of course, so fat Yanks can go to the fridge without expending any energy."
"Supercars are supposed to run over Arthur Scargill and then run over him again for good measure. They are designed to melt ice caps, kill the poor, poison the water table, destroy the ozone layer, decimate indigenous wildlife, recapture the Falkland Islands and turn the entire third world into a huge uninhabitable desert, all that before they nicked all the oil in the world."
"I’m sorry, but having an Aston Martin DB9 on the drive and not driving it is a bit like having Keira Knightley in your bed and sleeping on the couch. If you’ve got even half a scrotum it’s not going to happen."
On a caravaning holiday: “You aren’t allowed to have a party, you aren’t allowed to have music, you aren’t allowed to play ball games, you aren’t allowed to have a camp fire, you have to park within two feet of a post, you have to keep quiet, you have to be in bed by eleven. This is not a holiday, it’s a concentration camp!”
"Britain’s nuclear submarines have been deemed unsafe… probably because they don’t have wheel-chair access."
“If we are being honest HIV is a pathetic virus, it can only live in the air for 6 seconds and it does what ebola does to you in 10 days in 10 years.”
On the Lotus Elise: “This car is more fun than the entire french air force crashing into a firework factory.”
On actress Sarah Jessica Parker: “People think ‘oh she must be pretty’. She isn’t – she looks like a boiled horse."
On the BMW Z3: "And if you are clinically insane, by which I mean you wake up in the morning and think you are an onion, here’s your car."
On the Ferrari 430 Scuderia: “It’s like God having really unusual sex… it should come with toilet roll.”
"The problem is that television executives have got it into their heads that if one presenter on a show is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed heterosexual boy, the other must be a black Muslim lesbian."
"If you're thinking of coming to America, this is what it's like: you've got your Comfort Inn, you've got your Best Western, and you've got your Red Lobster where you eat. Everybody's very fat, everybody's very stupid and everybody's very rude - it's not a holiday programme, it's the truth."
On the N-word row: "I’ve been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked."
Jeremy Clarkson is involved in further controversy over a second set of number plates found in the vehicle he was driving in Argentina
A screengrab from Jeremy Clarkson's video apology
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.Reuse content