Mercedes chief Toto Wolff disclosed that he has been in touch with Sebastian Vettel amidst the quest for Sir Lewis Hamilton's successor.
However, he has downplayed the notion of the four-time Formula One champion making a sensational return to race for Mercedes.
Last week, it was confirmed that Hamilton would be departing the Silver Arrows after an 11-year stint to join Ferrari in 2025.
Wolff and his team are now actively searching for a driver capable of meeting the standards set by the most successful driver in the sport's history, with various names under consideration.
This list includes drivers not presently competing in F1, such as former Haas standout Mick Schumacher, 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli, and the retired Vettel.
The German legend retired from the sport in 2022 after a highly successful 15-year career that featured four consecutive titles and 53 wins, ranking fourth in history.
However, recent comments by Wolff have dampened speculation linking Vettel with Hamilton's replacement.
"I think he made the decision to not race anymore," said the Mercedes CEO about Vettel. "We are talking on a regular basis. We also talked yesterday [last Thursday], but it wasn't about driving for us in the future."
While Wolff emphasised that the team won't rush the decision, he hinted at the possibility of making a 'bold' choice in selecting the new driver. Vettel would certainly fit that description.
Last year, the former Red Bull and Ferrari star didn't rule out the idea of making a comeback, stating, "I can't say no [to the idea of making a comeback], because that you don't know. I can't exclude it."
However, it is more likely that Wolff was discussing the potential promotion of Mercedes junior Antonelli, who has been earmarked for significant achievements despite his young age.
"Kimi's been with Mercedes since he was 11. He's been in the junior programme, and his junior career was very successful," added Wolff. "I think what's most important at this stage is that he concentrates on F2."
The 2024 F1 season is set to kick off on March 2nd with the Bahrain Grand Prix.