An "old phone" explains why explosive rumours of contact between Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner is only now emerging.
Horner dropped the bombshell on the eve of the 2023 season finale in Abu Dhabi, as he suggested seven time world champion Hamilton was also in touch with Ferrari during his protracted contract extension talks with Mercedes earlier this year.
Curiously, the 38-year-old driver did not deny that there were some talks with both Red Bull and Ferrari - although he denies Horner's claims that it was the Hamilton camp that was instigating the contact.
"I never contacted Red Bull, and neither did my team," the Briton insisted in Abu Dhabi.
"I checked with everyone, and no one reached out to Christian. He had reached out to me about meeting up at the end of the season," Hamilton charged.
But why is the story only emerging now? According to Germany's Bild newspaper, Hamilton explained: "I took out my old cell phone with my old number, turned it on and logically had hundreds of messages.
"I saw that one of Christian's messages was him asking whether we wanted to sit down and talk. I answered him from my new phone and congratulated him on his great season.
"I found the message quite late - it was from earlier this year. So it (the answer) was months later," he insisted.
As for Horner leaking the information to the media this week, Hamilton suspects he was just "stirring things" with the 50-year-old's arch Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff.
"It's not the first time my name has been used to make a splash," he insisted, adding that he "told Toto about the message so that there wouldn't be a false impression".
When asked about the story and the hypothetical prospect of being Hamilton's Red Bull teammate, Max Verstappen didn't want to be drawn into the saga.
"No, because it's not happening," said the triple world champion. "So there's no point to make up stories if it's not happening."
However, Verstappen admitted he "wouldn't mind" being Hamilton's teammate - while Hamilton explained that while he'd be "happy" to race alongside Verstappen, "I don't think he wants me to be his partner".
When pressed on the matter, Verstappen said: "It doesn't matter. It could be anyone.
"I don't want to put it like it's particularly on Lewis. There's so many other great drivers," said the 26-year-old. "Sometimes it just doesn't work out like that."
Hamilton's new two-year deal with Mercedes was announced after protracted negotiations at the end of August.
He said on Thursday: "We still have a lot of work to do to catch up with Red Bull.
"We don't know how much faster Max could have gone when he was ahead. I just hope our 2024 car doesn't become a replica of our current one."