The McLaren driver made a set-up change at the end of free practice, but felt that he had made the wrong choice as soon as he went out in Q1.
"We just made a mistake and now we are stuck with it," Hamilton said. "We made some changes going into P3 but it went the opposite way into oversteer so we didn't know what to do. We went back the other way and it was a disaster.
"I felt we had a great car all weekend, it was just the set-up changes and then the car would not turn anymore.
"We were miles off and when you start you first lap you think 'damn, I wish I had gone the other way.'"
Several drivers said the yellow flags brought out by Kimi Raikkonen's spun Lotus hampered their Q3 efforts, but Hamilton said this was not an issue for him.
"It didn't make much difference. We weren't quick enough. I wasn't quick enough. It was a struggle and a huge mistake with set-up," he said.
Hamilton thinks there is little he can do to salvage a result on Sunday.
"Honestly I don't think it will be good," he said.
"I'll try to do everything I can with it but I have masses of understeer.
"I'll push as much as I can and if I look after my tyres better than others I can pinch some points off some people."
Jenson Button qualified third in the sister McLaren but will lose five places due to a gearbox-change penalty.