Hamilton, who won at home last time out at the British Grand Prix, had the rear of his car violently step out on him as he braked for the Sachs Kurve of the stadium sector of the track. The car pirouetted around the rear axel as he spun into the gravel and hit the tyre wall hard side-on.
Lewis walked away from the crash, albeit gingerly, but his car was too badly damaged to compete further. The result leaves the title contender eliminated in Q1 and starting 16th, unless any drivers above him fall foul of a penalty.
Over the team radio Hamilton said that the crash was a result of a brake failure, and Mercedes subsequently confirmed that their driver had suffered a front-right brake problem. There is no indication as to whether the failure was a stand-alone component failure, or related to the removal of the FRIC suspension system, which has put extra pressure on the suspension and affected the weight transfer under braking.
The accident marks another awful qualifying session for Hamilton. In Austria he spun in Q3, leaving him to start ninth on the grid, while at Silverstone he eased off his last flying lap on a drying track.
He'll now face a tough run through the grid to catch his team-mate Rosberg and keep the pressure on in the title battle.