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."
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".
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"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.
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