The 29-year-old Mercedes driver, fastest in Saturday qualifying, was told to retire over his team radio due to a reliability problem and duly pitted, removing the steering wheel after parking up.
"I think I was driving on five cylinders," Hamilton told Britain's Sky television. "It's a bit unfortunate but that's racing."
Formula One started a new engine era in Melbourne, the first race for the V6 turbo units with energy recovery systems that have replaced the old V8s.
Mercedes had arrived as clear favourites after their engine had looked the most reliable in pre-season testing, with Hamilton and German team mate Nico Rosberg putting in plenty of laps and carrying out race simulations without problem.
Hamilton said the pace of the car was one of the positives from the weekend.
"We will recover from this, it's only a small hiccup. There's a long way to go still," he added. "At the moment I'm not concerned about anything."
- Sports & Recreation