It was not clear if the vehicle could be repaired in time for qualifying later on Saturday.
The Thai driver, who escaped unhurt, lost control at the exit of the final corner and slammed into the barriers with the mangled auto coming to rest across the start-finish straight in a shower of carbon fibre debris. He tried to regain control, but the auto spun around as Albon plowed the front left side into a wall near the pit lane, with parts of the vehicle scattered across the track.
Sebastian Vettel was third-fastest for Mercedes' arch-rivals Ferrari for the race in Shanghai, the 1 000th grand prix in Formula One. "There was a little bit more time left on the table there but that's cool, I'll try and get it tomorrow", added Hamilton.
"Lewis also managed to improve a lot during the qualifying and it was super-close".
The Mercedes driver passed team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who had taken pole position, off the line and controlled Formula 1's 1,000th race from there.
Hamilton, the five-time and defending champion, led for the entire race after the quick start for his 75th career victory.
"It's not going to be easy, but I think we have the pace to make a few overtakes and hopefully get some more points".
The Finn was just 0.027 seconds clear of Vettel, who was fastest in the morning by a 0.207-second margin ahead of Hamilton.
"We are all relieved that Alex is fine after his FP3 crash", said Honda's F1 technical director, Toyoharu Tanabe.
Wolff said that the extra speed carried in the corners was what kept Mercedes ahead of the Ferrari's in qualifying.
Letting Vettel by cost Leclerc time and ensured Verstappen was closer to him.
"We made it to the top of the timesheets but it is always very hard to find a good balance through an entire lap on this track", said Bottas.
His Honda-powered team won in China a year ago, when they used Renault engines, with Ricciardo.
Valtteri Bottas will line up ahead of Lewis Hamilton on the front row of the grid in Shanghai, with the two Ferraris just behind in third and fourth.
However, Vettel's pace was no more impressive once allowed through, leaving Leclerc audibly furious as Ferrari dithered over a decision whether to swap them back.
Vettel said: "I felt I could go faster but then it was a bit hard for me to find a rhythm".
After taking the lead, Hamilton edged away from Bottas, building a five-second lead before his first pit stop on lap 22. "Maybe some safety cars will help, but we'll see".