The principality, the badger and the f***ing €500 phone bill

In the coming weeks I'll try and write some of the mishap stories from races I've covered that are now funny and for the most part were not funny at all while they were unfolding. This week we have a near heart attack from Monaco. Hope you enjoy my blabbering!

That was back in 2018, things were simpler, we had only one kid and it was May. That meant “Monaco, baby!”, to quote Jenson Button after winning in the Principality with the gorgeous Brawn BGP01 back in 2009.

Anyway, so we were going to Monaco! As usual we were driving. The distance is just above 2000 kilometres, so it’s pretty challenging but with good planning we split the road in two parts and on top of that we found an awesome hotel by the road in Italy that had an amazing restaurant! On the next day we reached the track, got our accreditations and it was time for work. We got the media day out of the way and it was time for some car action on Thursday!

And it quickly came! I prepared my gear, left my phone in the bag, inside the press centre and left for the track. The two practice sessions went by in a blur and I was really happy with some of the images I managed to create. I vividly remember being scared of not finding my phone at one point. You know that feeling when you touch your pocket to feel the phone, almost without thinking about it? Yeah, and it wasn’t there!!! Aaah, yeah, I left it in the pressroom. So, that’s that, pack our bags and we are back heading “home” - a nice place in Italy near the border. As Ivan is driving on the way back, I’m trying to call home, but for some weird reason the operator says my phone has been stopped. I have no idea why, but I’m not worried. Little did I know what was coming next.

As most of you know, Friday is a day off in the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, so we went around a beautiful place called Mentone in France. Fast forward to Saturday. I was beaming! The free practices went well, I had ideas, hopes, I took this shot of Fernando Alonso and he smiled! Using the press centre’s internet I ask my colleague from the magazine - Svetlana - to call Telenor and check what the deal is with my phone. They reply something in the lines of “there is an unpaid bill and we can’t disclose more information over the phone”. “Okay”, I say to myself, it’s last month’s bill. It’s usually due till the sixth next month but okay. I ask my parents to pay it. Still no connection. Then the gears in my empty head start rotating and I remembered that there is a thing called myTelenor and you can check your damn account through there. I opened it up aaaaand...

One of the most dramatic shots I've taken albeit only a screenshot...

Untitled photo

BGN 1061.55 or around €530

Remember that epic metal fight song at the end of Tanacious D where the Devil sang: “F***!, f***!”? That was me, then, at that moment. A thousand?! And I even haven’t touched my phone?! It was on a damn flight mode in my backpack aaaaaall day. How on earth was this possible?!

It’s fair to say that FP3 wasn’t a great session for me. I barely knew where I was. But I managed to make this shot of Charles coming out of Tabac corner which is cool. To make it I had to lie on the ground just beside the barriers, exactly where Ralf Schumacher crashed his Toyota back in 2005. Not the wisest I’ve been, I know. Soon some marshals pointed out my sub optimal position (as Ron Dennis would probably say) so I had to move on. Anyway. A friend and a colleague from the magazine tried to explain to me something about a prevention system, something about €50 and how I shouldn’t worry. You know what happens when you tell a worried man not to worry? Yeah, exactly.

F1, 2018, Monaco GP, Race

Anyway. A friend and a colleague from the magazine tried to explain to me something about a prevention system, something about €50 and how I shouldn’t worry. You know what happens when you tell a worried man not to worry? Yeah, exactly.

Going back to the F1 thing, Daniel lifted my spirits by grabbing pole and then winning albeit with a car on a brink of engine failure. Sadly, then the euphoria of all that calmed down, I had 2000 kilometres to think about that damn bill. One eternity later When I finally got home, I immediately went to see what the deal was with the bill. So, here is what happened. At some point my phone started using mobile data through Monaco’s network. Monaco is not EU, so 1 MB of data costs around €15, so the bill basically came from around 70 MB of data. I have not used my phone outside of the press centre that day and how I generated that traffic remains a mystery to me. So the Monegasque telecom blocked my phone after €500. Now the good news was that Telenor have what they called a “Bio Shock” system that cuts your data transfer at €50 and sends you an sms to tell you something in the lines of “hey, you are generating a big bill here, are you sure you wanna continue?” The issue for me was that the telecom in Monaco blocked my phone before Telenor were able to send me that message. So, kids, remember: whenever you go to Monaco, turn your phones on airplane mode even before the damn border!

Thank you for going this far!
You are a true hero!

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