Rishi Sunak has said he will support the next Conservative government, but has not ruled out standing in a future leadership race.
While Mr Sunak has not formally conceded defeat, the comments suggest he has accepted that frontrunner Liz Truss is likely to be named as the winner of the long-running contest on Monday.
The former chancellor said on Sunday that he would continue as an MP if he did not become prime minister, having made it to the last two MPs fighting to replace Boris Johnson.
Ms Truss is widely believed to be on course to win the race, which is decided by Conservative Party members. The ballot closed on Friday.
Mr Sunak was asked on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme if he would run for the Tory leadership again.
“We’ve just finished this campaign,” he said. “I’d say… I need to recover from this one. But I look forward to supporting the Conservative government in whatever capacity.”
Asked if that meant he was not ruling out another run for the top job, he added: “No gosh, no no no, I think my job now is just to support a Conservative government. That’s what I want to see succeed and that’s what I’ll do.”
Earlier in the interview, the former chancellor vowed “I’m going to stay as a member of parliament” even if he did not win the keys to No 10.
Explaining how he finished the campaign at home with his own party members in Richmond, he said: “It’s been a great privilege to represent them as their MP. I’d love to keep doing that as long as they’ll have me.”
He was also pressed on whether he would commit to standing at the next general election.
“I literally just said I was with my own members,” Mr Sunak said, before being asked again if he would stand for the next parliament.
“It’s presumptuous for me to say because I have to get selected by my own members. But I was with them on Friday night and it’s been a great privilege to represent them. And I know I can do good work for them,” he added.
Mr Sunak was also asked about what he would do to tackle the ongoing cost of living crisis if he was victorious.
The former chancellor took a similar approach to his rival, saying he could not give the “exact” pennies or pounds of support.
“I haven’t seen all the numbers and the nation’s finances,” he added.
However, he did not rule out imposing blackouts to tackle the energy crisis if need be.
Asked if he would plan for them, he told the presenter: “We shouldn’t rule anything out. We’re facing a genuine emergency.
“Anyone pretending that isn’t the situation isn’t being straight with the country. And by the way, across Europe, those plans are being drawn up.
“We shouldn’t rule anything out because the situation is serious. We need to have every tool in the toolbox, and we have seen from Europe that that is one of them.
“That sounds like quite an extreme thing when we say blackouts, but there are probably simpler, practical things that are about conserving the use of energy at a time when we’re facing a challenge like this.
“We don’t want to be in that situation, but I think it’s responsible not to rule it out.”