Former Sky F1 pundit and Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert has said the AI interview of Michael Schumacher was a ‘prime example’ of how dangerous the technology can be.
Last month, a German magazine came under serious scrutiny after publishing an apparent ‘interview’ with seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher – an interview which would have been a huge coup for the publication, as the German legend has been absent from public life since suffering life-changing injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013.
Schumacher was splashed all over the front cover of the April 15 edition of ‘Die Aktuelle’, with “World Sensation” and “Michael Schumacher, the first interview” written in large font to capture attention.
But the magazine also revealed that the interview, which asked about topics such as Schumacher’s skiing accident and his rehabilitation at home, had been carried out by an artificial intelligence chatbot, which answered the questions playing the persona of Schumacher.
The controversy resulted in the magazine’s editor being fired after a serious international backlash.
Johnny Herbert: The interview was appalling
Former Sky F1 pundit Johnny Herbert, a teammate of Michael Schumacher during the German driver’s second World Championship season with Benetton in 1995, spoke about the incident in an interview with Ice36.
“That German magazine interview was appalling,” he said.
“This is the modern, mad world of AI and how dangerous it can be. That was a prime example of using it in completely the wrong way.
“I can understand the fascination with Michael because it is a story that has not had an ending yet. There is an endless fascination about Michael.”
Herbert, who has remained a mainstay in the F1 paddock through his broadcasting work since his racing career ended in 2001, said he hasn’t any inside information on his former teammate’s condition.
“I don’t have any contact with the family,” he explained. “It is all kept very tight.”
Johnny Herbert: Michael Schumacher was able to create a cycle of success despite ‘darker side’
Opening up on his relationship with Schumacher, having claimed two victories over the course of the 1995 season as the German driver romped his way to the title, Herbert said it hadn’t always been smooth sailing.
“I didn’t see eye-to-eye with ruthless Schumacher – he had a ‘darker side’,” he said.
“We didn’t always see eye-to-eye. He was ruthless. But that is why he achieved what he achieved. He had a way that he wanted to go about his racing. He was fortunate that he got the right people around him with Flavio Briatore, Ross Brawn to Rory Byrne, and he took those people to Ferrari.
“I remember Ross saying Michael was the best driver he had ever worked with. Because of that they would do anything for him. And I mean anything. Because of that, Michael gets that motivation, they get the motivation back because he gives it back, and together they deliver. Then it becomes a cycle of success.”
It was shortly after their partnership at Benetton had ended that Herbert said Schumacher produced his most memorable drive for the Scuderia, having made the switch to Ferrari for 1996.
“I still remember what for me was his standout performance in the Ferrari, in the wet in Barcelona in 1996,” he said.
“It was his first victory for Ferrari. It was a stunning drive in torrential rain and why he was thereafter called the ‘Regenmeister’, the Rainmaster. It was an unbelievable drive.
“Yes, there was a darker side to him too, but at the end of the day you can’t deny anything he did.”