De Vries stormed to pole position as he beat Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara in qualifying.
The Dutchman won the opener ahead of Mercedes teammate Stoffel Vandoorne and looked set to secure back-to-back wins in Saudi Arabia.
De Vries lost the lead to the second Venturi of Lucas di Grassi when the Brazilian and Mortara opted to take their second attack modes.
His slump down the order continued when Jean-Eric Vergne aggressively overtook him into Turn 19, falling to ninth.
He ultimately finished 1oth in a disappointing race for Mercedes.
Reflecting on what happened, he said: “In summary, we weren't quick enough today. Also, we might have been a little late in activating Attack Mode, which might also have been a factor in us dropping back a bit.
“It's tough when you're down on pace. On top of that, after contact, I lost four or five positions which was just too bad. In the end, though, it was down to us as I believe we simply weren't fast enough today.
“It all goes to prove once again that things can still go wrong, even if you've had a strong weekend up until that point. The window is very narrow and you can soon lose out as a result.”
Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne recovered from a lacklustre qualifying to finish seventh.
The Belgian believes it was good “damage limitation” after a poor qualifying.
“We started 12th on the grid today, so qualifying was the downside for me,” he added. “I didn't manage to optimise the second run with the warm-up and extracting the lap time when it mattered which meant I was further down the grid.
“From there I think we had a solid race and a good recovery back to seventh with the fastest lap, maybe today was a little bit more difficult than yesterday in terms of the race pace we had but in general it was a well-executed race from my side of the garage.
“It was the best we could do in these circumstances so damage limitation today.”