The Red Flags Podcast On Becoming The Voice For American Formula 1 Fans

When Brian Muller and Matt Elisofon first picked up their microphones to record the debut episode of Red Flags, they were trying to fill a niche they’d recognized in the Formula 1 world: “I was like, where is the podcast with the Bill Simmons of F1? There wasn’t just some guy out there who’s just a lunatic shooting the shit with his friend. So we became the podcast you want to see in the world.”

The F1 podcast space can be grim. Just about any show hosted by a journalist, personality, or driver affiliated with the sport will inevitably be measured, a relic of the era where F1 was presided over by Bernie Ecclestone. Upset Ecclestone — even for something incredibly minor — and you may very well show up to the next race to find your credentials had been deactivated. Even though the open-wheel ship is under newer, friendlier management, there’s still an attitude that you can’t piss anyone off. Too many of those F1 podcasters rely on F1 for their paycheck. They can’t just have fun.

That’s part of what has made Red Flags such a stunning romp. Hosted by two American “childhood enemies, turned best friends, turned F1 husbands,” this is the show you go for when you fall in love with Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive” and wonder how to access this new-to-you sport in an equally compelling way. It’s the show with the most energy, the most yelling, and the most chaos, all catering to the “little sluts who live for the drama.” And damn, does it work.

Muller and Elisofon have known each other since they were children, but as their podcast bio suggests, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

“Matt and I grew up together in New York,” Muller said. “We were enemies.”

As Muller explains it, he “inherited” Elisofon from a different friend group, and the similarities between the two meant they actually hated each other for a while, feeling as if they needed to compete. By their senior year of high school, they were collaborating on a sketch comedy show and, despite growing apart for a while, Muller was the first person Elisofon called after watching Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a classic F1 love story, just like everyone else,” Elisofon added with a laugh. The two men watched a few races together over Zoom — via illegal livestream, in the dark, in bed, next to their girlfriends, as they tried to stay quiet reacting to the chaos of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. “I was like, all races must be like this. This is the greatest sport of all time — and every race is exciting because we’ve only seen that one.”

They were all-in. Elisofon noted that he wanted to “consume every piece of media, all the content” about F1, but there was something lacking: Personality.

He continued, “A lot of the British [F1] podcasts, they’re so measured and so afraid of pissing everybody off because they don’t want to run afoul of people when they get bigger. Brian and I, we were like, we’re not going to worry about that. We’ll never be that big. We really wanted to be the kind of fans that weren’t afraid to be fans.”

Of course, it helps that Elisofon and Muller didn’t originally intend to work within the Formula 1 world, which gave them more freedom to share their true thoughts and enjoy themselves.

“I want to be on Broadway,” Muller said, noting the acting and screenwriting aspirations of himself and his co-host. “I can’t be like, oh, this [Broadway] show sucks — even if I think that. But with F1, we have the freedom to let our hair down.”

But the passion and humor of the Red Flags Podcast resonated. They posted their first episode of the podcast and earned a grand total of “like, 30 listeners,” Muller told me. They started clipping parts of the show for TikTok, and one of those bite-size clips quickly gained traction.

“We had just released a clip where we were talking about [Lewis Hamilton’s dog] Roscoe’s sperm, because we learned Lewis had frozen it, because he wanted to breed Roscoe but he kept having, y’know, nightly emissions. Just jizzing all over the house,” Elisofon said. “We put that clip out, and there was like, 400 views. Then 600 views. Then, all of a sudden, it was like, 1,000 views, and then 3,000.

“Brian and I were on the phone together just refreshing the page, and suddenly, 30,000 people had seen this clip. The next time we released an episode, we jumped from 30 listeners to 200 listeners.”

But that viral experience helped the two men better understand what people wanted. As they recorded future episodes, they began noting the moments that would make great social clips — and as more clips went viral, more people began listening to Red Flags. They gained a producer. They gained interns. They got sponsors and partnerships. Now, their Instagram page sits at 131,000 followers, their TikTok at 11.9 million likes. They’ve interviewed Mario Andretti, Willy T. Ribbs, Liam Lawson, and Will Buxton, along with a massive list of other names both inside and outside motorsport.

Now, they’re expanding. Every Thursday, they’ll drop a new podcast called Vankah Hours, with co-host Guenther Steiner, former Haas F1 team principal. Their approach — doing their own thing, without worrying about what others thought — has worked out pretty damn well.

That growth came with higher expectations and more pressure — but as Muller notes, they work hard to keep that pressure from impacting them.

“The more pressure [Red Flags] has, the worse that product will become,” he told me. “But Matt and I both have individual pursuits outside of F1.” Focusing on those pursuits have helped remove the stress of working on a successful podcast, while also helping Elisofon and Muller keep their priorities in line.

Elisofon noted that there are so many things about Red Flags that could remove the joy: long meetings, calls with lawyers, countless spreadsheets, and so much more. But he also notes that the trade-off for those frustrations is the ability to have fun — and contextualizing that joy is what it’s all about.

“I can say, it’s kind of like being an actor, because so much of being an actor is bullshit,” Elisofon told me. “You’re doing self-tapes. You have to get new headshots. You’re sitting around in auditions, or in your trailer. When you finally get a gig, you’re probably acting one minute for every hour you’re on set. You’re used to going through hell to get to the fun thing.” All the work that goes into sustaining Red Flags is made worth it when the Zoom call starts and the mics turn on.

“It sounds cliché, but keeping the flame lit from that spark of the original idea, that’s the main thing,” Muller added. “That trumps everything: whether or not people are listening, whether or not it’s going well right now.

“It’s not worth it to put [this podcast] out for short-term gain. We have a friendship to protect.”

“That’s the hardest part to navigate,” Elisofon continued. “Going into business with your friends, it means you have to separate the friendship from the business, even though, in a lot of ways, the friendship is the business. That’s what we’re selling, in a weird way.”

After so much reflection, I was expecting something equally introspective when I asked Elisofon and Muller to share the most important thing they’ve learned throughout their endeavor. Their answer came almost in unison, and was almost perfectly Red Flags: “Always hit record.”

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