GLOBETROTTER

If I were a rich man...

"So when are you off on your first jolly?" someone asked the other day.

I pondered a moment whether to launch into my (well-rehearsed) speech about Formula 1 not being "a jolly" and how we poor journalists work very hard; how we pay for our own tickets and how it is not much fun spending the average national wage just to do one's job. But then I paused.

"The first week of March," I said. "Australia."

"That will be nice," came the reply.

I nodded. It will be nice. It always is. And I forgot about all the little things in life that cause us such stress and strain. When you boil it down, my journey to work is a little more expensive than those who have monthly season tickets from the suburbs to the city. But then again I would argue that I probably have a more interesting life.

And let us not forget those poor young racing drivers who are out there now, desperately trying to raise money to fund their racing activities. They have a much harder task. I have seen a lot of money-making schemes over the years in Formula 1 and I thought I had seen just about everything when Justin Wilson floated himself on the London Stock Exchange. But no, the other day I found another scheme perhaps even more brilliant than that.

It arrived by e-mail from an old Formula 1 engineer with a simple note attached: "The solution to race budget needs..."

I opened the file and discovered a link. I cut and I pasted the link into the Internet browser and I was whisked away to the wonderful world of The Time Travel Fund.

"How would YOU like to visit, even live, hundreds of years in the future?" it said.

"I saw a movie about that once," I muttered to myself.

"There may be a way," said the website. "And that is the purpose of The Time Travel Fund."

I was still reading...

"Current scientific theory states that time travel may be possible. However the technology is a long way off, perhaps hundreds of years in the future. Now, assume it does become possible in, say, 500 years. As with any technology, time travel will get less expensive as time goes on. Just as the price of a VCR has dropped to less than $70 from the several hundred dollars it cost just 10 years ago, time travel, once it becomes feasible, will initially be very expensive yet it will become more and more economical as time goes by."

Fascinating, I thought. Is there a point to all this?

"The concept is that one day, it may be possible for people living far in the future to retrieve you from your current frame of reference (their past - your present) and bring you into the future (their present - your future.)"

Why would they want to do that?

"That is the purpose of the fund. The simple answer is, we pay them to bring you into the future. We establish a fund in current time. You make a small contribution to the fund, and in a few hundred years that small amount grows to a very large amount. From that fund, moneys will be taken and used to retrieve you, perhaps seconds after you join."

The marvellous thing about all this is that all you have to do is to send $10 to the owners of the website and they will place "a percentage" of that in the fund, to grow and earn interest. A single dollar, they explain, at 5% annual interest will grow to be worth $39bn in 500 years from now, even if you have to pay taxes and deal with inflation.

In other words if I send my $10 today, tomorrow morning when I am walking down the road a man in an aluminium suit will come up to me and hand me a cheque for $39bn.

Splendid! I will be able to afford the hotel prices in Bahrain this year. And have a little left over to pay my son's school fees. I'd be able to pay off the mortgage and buy a little villa down in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, which will save on accommodation costs at Monaco!

And, having done that, I would still have $39bn to spend. In order to make a decent dent in a fortune that large I would have to work pretty hard. But I guess I could buy the banks out of the mess they got themselves into with the Formula One group. I could buy out Bernie Ecclestone so he could retire comfortably and not have to deal with errant team bosses and money-losing magazines. He could buy himself an aircraft carrier and disappear off to Turkey where, sitting on the bridge, he could buy and sell property to keep himself amused in between attempts to swamp the tacky little yachts that the other F1 team bosses own.

After that I would still have about $35bn left to play with.

But, oh, what fun it would be to explain to the team bosses that I was now in charge and that this is what we are going to do with the sport. Inevitably they would disagree with me, because they disagree with everything.

When Paul Stoddart came up with a good idea about how to improve the show for Formula 1 fans, the team bosses all seemed to agree that a two-seater race on Sunday morning would be a great idea but then, when push came to shove, only four them committed to it. They don't care about the race fans so long as the money keeps coming in.

If I had $35bn I could sort out that problem quite quickly. We could invest in the sport a bit and attempt to justify the cost of the tickets by putting on a decent show. And it would pay off in the end because a better show would legitimately allow one to raise the prices of the tickets.

What would I do with the rules?

Would I go back to wings and slicks and cloth caps and funerals on Tuesdays? No, I think not.

Would I build new race tracks out in the desert and allow engineers to build whatever wild pieces of machinery they wanted to build? No, probably not.

Would I make them race with hybrid engines? Maybe.

But you know, the funny thing is, that I'd probably leave Formula 1 pretty much as it is... because when all is said and done there is not much wrong with the sport we love.

Nothing that a little money and a different attitude could not fix.

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