"Unfortunately, I could feel that something was not right when leaving the pits -- as I had vibrations straight away," he said.
"All that was left for us to do was hope that the gap would be big enough to remain in the top ten, but that turned out not to be the case.
"We will now have a close look into what exactly happened and fully concentrate on trying to make up some positions in the race." But with tyre wear expected to be an important factor in Sunday's 55-lap race, the German legend was positive about saving his treads.
"I have saved two fresh sets of option tyres which is always helpful," he said.
"Everything went normally in Q1 (the first qualifying round), and from what you can expect of the tyres under normal circumstances, it was absolutely justified to go for just one run in Q2."
His Mercedes teammate and compatriot Nico Rosberg had a better session, finishing in seventh.
He said: "I'm quite pleased with today, To find the right set-up for the qualifying and the race is always a compromise, particularly after such limited dry running, so I'm happy that we saved one set of option tyres."