Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has flatly denied reports that he has received a written offer from Aston Martin to take over as chief executive officer.
"The story is not true, I am not going to be the CEO of Aston Martin," he said in response to reports that originally surfaced in Motorsport.com's Dutch-language website this week.
But former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone still predicts that Wolff will indeed decide to jump ship in the coming months, insisting that "we will more than likely see him" move to Aston Martin at the end of 2020.
Speculation about Wolff's future in F1 was sparked when he missed a crucial telephone conference of team bosses last week discussing the sport's response to the coronavirus situation.
While all other team principals were on the line, Wolff's place in the conference call was taken by Mercedes technical director James Allison. No explanation was given regarding the substitution.
Racing Point co-owner Lawrence Stroll was also not on the call, although that was seen as a less significant omission at the time as the team was represented by CEO Otmar Szafnauer.
Conspiracy theorists put the two absences together and came up with the answer that Wolff and Stroll were huddled in a corner discussing terms for Wolff to take over as Aston Martin when Stroll completes his takeover of the financially struggling sports car manufacturer.
Stroll and Wolff, who are long-time close friends, had earlier flown back together from the aborted Australian Grand Prix in Stroll's private jet.
As part of Stroll's takeover of Aston Martin, the Racing Point F1 team will be rebranded for the 2021 season. Wolff is also believed to be in negotiations to take a stake in the business, having previously invested in HWA and the Williams F1 team before taking over at Mercedes in 2013.
In remarks to the GPFans website on Friday, Ecclestone suggested that there could be a kernel of truth to the reports of Wolff looking to move on.
"Wolff has become more friendly with Lawrence," the 89-year-old explained. “Lawrence has some people with him and the group has bought control of the company, and I suppose Toto could jump in there as chief executive.
“He has the brains to pick the right people to be friends with, and I think we will more than likely see him join Lawrence at Aston Martin," he added. “It might work.”
Wolff will be out of contract at Mercedes at the end of the current season as is the team's star driver Lewis Hamilton. Many see their destinies inextricably intertwined, and suggest that Wolff's exit might also precipitate Hamilton's departure from Brackley at the same time.
Mercedes insiders have been saying for some time that Daimler boss Ola Kallenius is not a fan of Wolff, and is out to make deep budget cuts in the sporting operation - meaning that big ticket items including Wolff's and Hamilton's salaries are in the firing line.
Wolff and Kallenius are also believed to have argued over whether Mercedes should have pulled out of the Australian GP after McLaren were forced to withdraw when a team member tested positive for coronavirus. Wolff wanted to go ahead but Kallenius was opposed. Ultimately the race itself was called off at the last minute.
Mercedes has denounced the speculation about Wolff's future started by Britain's Daily Mail newspaper as "nonsense".