Former BAR boss David Richards is believed to be close to giving the green light to launching his own Prodrive Formula One team for 2008, autosport.com has learned.
Sources have confirmed that Richards recently held talks with FIA president Max Mosley and F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone to discuss the future framework of regulations planned for the sport after 2007.
It is the first indication that Richards' plans for a team are advancing behind the scenes - even though he has made no secret of the fact that he has been considering a return to Grand Prix racing for some time.
Although Richards has declined to comment on the latest developments, he did admit at the Autosport International Show in January that a move to F1 for Prodrive would make sense if new rules planned for 2008 made the sport more economically viable for independent teams.
"I would not say it is unfinished business, but Prodrive is a motorsport business and that is at the heart of everything that we do," he said.
"We are involved in most aspects of it, but we are currently not involved in F1 - although we do supply some components.
"I will only go there (into F1) when the situation allows us to be competitive and to make a profit - and the changes coming for 2008 might allow that to come to fruition."
There are suggestions that David Lapworth, who left his position as Performance Director of Prodrive's Subaru World Rally Team last week, will be involved in the F1 operation.
A report in this week's Autocar magazine also suggests that Prodrive will build a state-of-the-art factory for their F1 team at the former Honiley airfield near Warwick, which has been owned by the company since 1999.
Richards' ambitions for the team come at a time when Mosley is campaigning hard on behalf of independent teams - claiming they are the lifeblood of F1. Mosley admitted recently that Richards was 'serious' in his ambitions to launch an F1 team.
"David Richards is looking at it quite seriously, but I think that is a separate operation, he has put a whole operation together," said Mosley. "It would make sense."