I guess I got my answer.
I give more credence to the quality of the team strategies, pit work as well as exceptional driving by Alonso initially and at the end by Massa.
What is the definition of a "good car". It is a good car because it could beat a Marussia, HRT, or Lotus? I did not see a Ferrari that was able to qualify for the front row on a regular basis. As a result, even if it's race pace was better than the qualifying pace, the drivers were constantly having to work their way through the cars ahead of them on the grid. That often made wins all but impossible. It also put the cars/drivers at greater risk, not a desirable situation.
It is usually acknowledged that the McLaren was the fastest car on the grid for most of the year. The Red Bulls managed to again win the WCC as well as the WDC, as their cars had a good combination of qualifying and race pace. Ferrari managed to overcome the shortcomings of the car to finish second in both championships, but as I said, it was as much or more the team strategies, pit work, persistency and good effort by the drivers... and some errors by the competition... to pull what at best was the third (or even 4th) best car on the grid into those positions.
Good on Ferrari for getting so many pundits and F1 personnel to buy into their self-degrading little game that they forced on us.
Kind of makes one wonder though............why would Ferrari want to make Fernando look good by saying they have created a poor car??? Does that seem like a wise thing to do for a company that builds ultra-expensive exotic cars with a reputation as great performance??? "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday"
.... a long time saying about race cars.
So Ferrari has a new approach. Tell the world "We have not made a car as fast as a our competition, yet please buy from us on Monday"
Blake, your second sentence is the one I agree the most. Alonso's and Ferrari's success last year was the result of many factors and Alonso's driving was only one of them. How important it was is hard to say but no doubt it was an important one.
Digressing a bit, debates in this forum start mostly for four reasons IMO:
1. Because a post addresses only part of the truth and not the whole truth.
2. Because a post jumps to conclusions without considering all the arguments.
3. Because a post is interpreted as an indirect message instead of a direct one.
4. Because a post jumps to conclusions without considering all the arguments and/or links such conclusion directly to a different conclusion reached also without considering the respective arguments (trust me, it makes sense if you think about it).
Case in point:
1. Poster says the F2012 was slow compared to the top cars. It seemed to be true so the post itself is probably correct. However, that’s only part of the truth because the F2012 wasn’t JUST slow and nothing else. Therefore it’s also correct to add that the F2012 was the most reliable car too for example. Out of everything else, this is the healthiest and smartest kind of debate: Posters piecing the WHOLE truth together without jumping to a conclusion until the end.
2. Poster says the F2012 was slow last year and therefore all of Alonso's success is because of him. Well, as per above, it’s most probably true that F2012 was slower than the other top cars. However saying that all of Alonso's success is because of him is a very simplistic conclusion. It doesn't take into consideration all other internal and external factors, such as team strategies, reliability, crew performance, driver preferences, mistakes and failures of the competition and so on.
3. Poster says Alonso did very well last year because the F2012 was slow. Another poster interprets it as an attack to another driver (Hamilton for example) and replies that Alonso didn't do any better than Hamilton because the F2012 was the most reliable car and Ferrari was a better team. Now the first poster is wrong for jumping to conclusions based on part of the arguments. However, the second poster is twice wrong, first for interpreting the OP as an indirect attack to Hamilton and second for also jumping to conclusions based on part of the arguments.
4. Poster says Alonso did better than another driver last year (Vettel for example) because the F2012 was slower than the RB8. In this case this poster is twice wrong: first for jumping to conclusions about Alonso without considering all the arguments, second for jumping to conclusions about Vettel without considering all the arguments like for example the difference in experience or the respective teammate competition.
If you recall our debate about Alonso’s involvement in the Spygate you’ll see that it’s also a perfect example of some of the above.
Going back to your post, I overall consider it mostly on point, mentioning Ferrari’s qualifying issues, the risks of mid-grid starts, Ferrari’s achievements as a team, etc. But you still leave out a few aspects like Massa’s poor(ish) performance until the last few races which disadvantaged Ferrari for most of the season, especially compared to McLaren and Red Bull. An argument can be made that had Massa performed the entire season to the same level of the last few races, Ferrari might very well have won the WCC. Again, this is arguable and as for you I’m well aware that you didn’t claim to include every single aspect in your post so I’m not criticizing you. I’m simply saying that even a considerate poster such as yourself couldn’t contemplate everything, so imagine now a different poster, especially one with an agenda.
As for Ferrari’s approach, well, I think your argument is null. Even when Ferrari dominated and won the WCC for 6 years in a row they praised Schumacher, Barrichello, Bridgestone, Michelin and their competition but never their car to my knowledge so I don’t see why they should do so now. To my understanding, this is a common trend in F1 where the teams praise the drivers and the competition but not themselves and the drivers praise the team and their rivals but not themselves. I honestly hated Ferrari's negative perception last year. Sure, Ferrari didn’t deserve a heap of praise but they did deserve some nonetheless. After all, let's not forget that Ferrari finished second in the WCC, beating McLaren in the process and not too far from Red Bull. Why was there such a negative perception is an interesting question.