Richard Hammond and James May are reportedly "very close" to turning down a £4.6 million BBC offer to return to Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson.
Rumours have abounded since BBC director general Tony Hall's largely unwelcomed decision in March and according to The Mirror, a "groundbreaking and incredibly lucrative" Netflix deal for the popular trio is looking probable (House of Cars anybody?).
"Flattering though it is to be offered huge sums there'll be no going back," a source said. "It wouldn't feel right and their heart wouldn't be in it. They've always said they come as a team and that hasn't changed.
"They are all very excited at the prospect of having total editorial control over their new show, to make it and get it distributed. They would stand to earn much, more more than they would with the BBC."
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'.
BBC bosses hope to re-start the series with different guest presenters each week in a similar format to "post-Angus Deayton Have I Got News For You?", a top source told The Independent earlier this week, but whether Hammond and May will be on board remains in doubt.
"Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn't work," May said in April. "That would be lame, or 'awks' as young people say. It has to be the three of us. You can't just put a surrogate Jeremy in and expect it to carry on. It would be forced. I don't believe they would be stupid enough to try that."
Clarkson, Hammond and May are reunited at the moment on the Top Gear Live tour, rebranded as Clarkson, Hammond and May Live to allow it to go ahead.
It is not inconceivable that the trio could return to Top Gear together, with BBC2 controllor Kim Shillinglaw saying in April that "Jeremy will be back on the BBC".
"It is serious and unfortunate what happened but there is no ban on Jeremy being on the BBC," she said. "Conversations are ongoing with James and Richard about a whole variety of projects at the BBC."
Scenes filmed before Clarkson was suspended are expected to air within weeks and no negotiations with Netflix have yet been finalised.Reuse content