Leclerc’s car smashed into the wall, with his power steering failing, in a dramatic start to the proceedings at Interlagos.
“I lost the hydraulics, why am I so unlucky,” he said on team radio.
A red flag after the first lap of the race saw Leclerc try to recover his Ferrari and rejoin the race, but to no avail.
“When I lost the steering wheel... I know what it is, I cannot go into too much detail,” Leclerc said afterwards.
“I spun and hit the wall, I couldn’t do anything.”
It is not the first time Leclerc has not started a race on the front row: in 2021, he qualified on pole for his home race in Monaco.
But a drive shaft issue meant his Ferrari car could not start the race.
It was a bad day for Ferrari, with Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz only finishing sixth.