Pascal Wehrlein has brushed off the criticism he received for missing the first two races of the 2017 Formula 1 season through injury as he prepares to return in Bahrain this weekend.

Wehrlein suffered neck and back injuries in a crash at the Race of Champions in January, forcing him out of one pre-season test and the races in Australia and China.

Mercedes junior Wehrlein will make his debut for Sauber this weekend in Bahrain after joining the team over the winter, having been replaced by Antonio Giovinazzi for the opening two rounds of the year.

Wehrlein's absence led to criticism in some corners, given drivers have raced while injured in the past, with a number of his peers saying they would have not skipped the races as he did.

The German was quick to brush off the criticism, saying those who had not suffered the injuries he did were not in a position to judge.

"If you don't know which injuries someone had, I think you cannot, or you shouldn't, criticize them. It's quite simple," Wehrlein said.

"If the injury was nothing... it wasn't something too serious because I'm fine now, but it was just some massive pain, nothing else, do you think Sauber and Mercedes would accept me to not drive?

"So... some negative comments I heard, I don't mind too much."

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While Sunday's race will be Wehrlein's first extended run in an F1 car since last November, he has no concerns about getting through the weekend.

"It's my first race this year and normally the more races you do the easier it gets," Wehrlein said.

"Otherwise I think I will be fine in the car - no pain, that's the most important thing. The track is also quite flat with no bumps, it's just a bit hot but otherwise it's OK."

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