Vettel made his first 2022 race appearance after sitting out the Bahrain and Saudi Arabia rounds with COVID-19.
With the four-time world champion already up against it after lacking so much seat time, he fell behind even further due to technical problems in Melbourne practice.
Vettel had to park his AMR22 near the end of FP1 with a loss of power, which prompted an engine change that also saw him miss FP2.
On Saturday he was restricted to just five laps before crashing out of FP3 and was then eliminated in Q1 after barely making it out at all, following an impressive repair job by the team.
Early in Sunday's race, Vettel and teammate Lance Stroll attempted to benefit from an early safety car to get a free stop for new tyres, but on lap 23 Vettel lost control on the high Turn 5 exit kerbs and smacked his nose into the wall on the opposite side, suffering terminal damage.
When asked whether his crash was the result of an ill-handing car or a lack of mileage, Vettel said it was "probably a bit of both" but admitted he was perhaps pushing too hard in an effort to make up lost ground.
"Obviously, I tried to get the best out of the car that I can and with hindsight maybe I was pushing too hard," the German said. "Once I lost it there was no chance to come back."
Vettel conceded his 2022 season couldn't get any worse as he is yet to complete a grand prix distance.
"It was more challenging not to have the running, obviously partly because we lost time with the car, and then with the Saturday morning incidents so doesn't help, but I'm sure it will get better.
"It can't get any worse," he said.
Stroll finished 12th in Albert Park, equalling the team's best result so far this season. As Alex Albon picked up a point for Williams, Aston Martin is now the only F1 team yet to score any points in 2022.