What began as a wild rumour has slowly edged towards near-fact: Michael Schumacher is returning to the formula one grid.
The hardening speculation has been all but confirmed by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, with whom the 40-year-old German won five of his seven world championships until 2006.
The Italian told international reporters at a Christmas dinner on Friday that, during a conversation with Ferrari adviser Schumacher earlier this week, "he told me there is a very strong possibility" he will race a Mercedes next year.
Montezemolo joked that, after Schumacher renewed his consultancy contract for three additional years at Monza in mid September, the German set to be Nico Rosberg's 2010 teammate is the Ferrari legend's "twin".
"There's another one who looks like him, 40, 41 years old, German, same name and decided to do a new career," he said.
Montezemolo confirms that some of Ferrari's passionate Tifosi will not appreciate the news that Schumacher will be wearing silver in 2010.
"They think Michael is a traitor. But I will explain to them it is not Michael but another one. The real Michael is still with Ferrari."
Schumacher's return is set to be announced either shortly after Christmas, or at the beginning of January.