Lewis Hamilton is set for a shocking move to Mercedes to replace Michael Schumacher, if former team boss Eddie Jordan is to be believed.
Jordan, now a BBC Formula One chief analyst, told BBC Sport:
"I believe Hamilton and Mercedes have already agreed personal terms and a deal could be imminent."
McLaren moved quickly to dismiss the rumours, saying negotiations with Hamilton—whose contract is up at the end of 2012—were continuing. Hamilton himself and Mercedes refused to comment.
Were Hamilton to move, it would be the largest shakeup in the drivers' market for many years. McLaren would have to scramble for a replacement on short notice, and it seems unlikely they would turn to one of their young reserve drivers.
Such a move would also spell the end of Schumacher's F1 career. Though the German has thus far denied he will leave the sport at the end of the year, Jordan said:
"Bernie Ecclestone made it clear to me live on television on Sunday that Schumacher was leaving, although Schumacher later played it down.
So it would appear Michael is leaving and Lewis is arriving at Mercedes."
A respected and well-known figure around the paddock, Jordan's word carries plenty of weight—and he does not appear to have been idly speculating.
McLaren have not won a drivers' championship since 2008, and their last victory in the constructors' championship was in 1998.
For the past few seasons, the team have failed to deliver a championship-winning car, and though this year's MP4-27 has proved competitive, strategic and pit-stop blunders have cost Hamilton dearly.
If he has lost patience with the team, it would not be a great surprise.
But moving to Mercedes would be a huge leap of faith.
Despite a strong personnel lineup and large budget, the German manufacturer has never (in this century) produced a top-drawer car. After a promising start, 2012's W03 has slipped steadily backward through the field.
It won the Chinese Grand Prix earlier in the year but now struggles to secure a top-six finish.
In racing terms, McLaren looks the more likely to be challenging for the title in 2013. So unless a significant rift has developed between Hamilton and the top men at McLaren, a move to Mercedes doesn't look especially attractive.
Unless, that is, Hamilton is following the money.
No doubt we'll find out more in the coming days.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!