It was remarkable that his auto was even in a fit state to continue, but the damage meant he was effectively racing blind.
"I think there was damage on the auto already and then it didn't matter, to be honest", the German told Britain's Channel 4 television. If you feel the auto is coming alive, you can do what you want to.
"I tried to back out of it because I could see it coming, but the rear tyres are wider than the front so I couldn't back out of it anymore", he added.
Daniel Ricciardo backed up his teammate's optimism, saying he feels Red Bull is in a good position to win with either of its drivers.
Vettel and Verstappen were involved in heated incidents last season, and the ill feeling still seems to linger. But when it came to the final session of qualifying, Sebastian Vettel put together an unbeatable lap time and Ricciardo was also beaten to second place by teammate Max Verstappen.
"I gave it everything", said Hamilton, who had won the previous two races in Belgium and Italy. "So I can be quite happy with this qualifying".
For the highly consistent Ricciardo, it was a seventh podium in the past 10 races.
Hamilton said he was pleased with his own performance - he was 0.684 seconds quicker than team-mate Valtteri Bottas - but that the Mercedes was struggling at the tight and twisty Marina Bay street circuit.
Once the lights went out, there was an absolute chaotic start as Verstappen was squeezed from either side by the two Ferraris, causing a huge collision on the run down to Turn 1.
Remarkably, Fernando Alonso was also caught up in the chaos and the Spaniard was later forced into yet another retirement in a race shortened from 61 laps to 59 - the McLaren man one of eight drivers who failed to finish.
Alonso lasted just a few laps before the damage sustained at the first corner forced him to retire, and Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat became the fifth man out when he ploughed nose-first into a barrier - prompting a second safety auto.
Esteban Ocon qualified the second Force India vehicle fourteenth, ahead of Romain Grosjean's Haas.