Hamilton was running fourth, within 3.4s of the lead, when power delivery problems struck his car on lap 26. He was also running on the soft tyres, rather than the supersofts that the lead trio were on, meaning he could have been set for a late-race charge.
"I was feeling super optimistic," said the world champion after what was his first retirement of the season. "The guys in front were on the option [tyre] and I was easily keeping up with them, so I was thinking you know what, we have a race on our hands!
"The balance was great, it was really under control, and I was just waiting for the time to push. But obviously the car just lost power, and I hoping for a fix but it just never came. None of the changes made any difference.
"I got overtaken by the Marussias and I knew winning was out of the question - and they started to pull away and I knew points were out of the question."
Although his championship lead over team mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's race victor Sebastian Vettel has been cut to 41 and 49 points respectively, Hamilton said he was far from dismayed by the turn of events.
"I feel content with the job I did this weekend," he reflected. "I drove the best I could, I was quicker than my team mate in the race, and I was feeling good in the car.
"While it hasn't been the most positive race for the team, we'll bounce back."
With Rosberg coming home fourth, the Marina Bay race was only the second time this season that Mercedes have failed to finish on the podium, the previous occasion being in Hungary.