LONDON (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton's Formula One switch from McLaren to Mercedes next year is an essential step that could be the making of him as a man, former McLaren driver David Coulthard said on Saturday.
The Scot, who started his career at Williams and ended it with Red Bull, wrote in a Daily Telegraph column that he felt the 2008 world champion had grown out of McLaren and had to make a move.
"Sometimes relationships just reach their natural conclusion," he said.
"You don't live your whole life at home, even though the fridge is always full and the laundry gets done for you. At some stage you have to move out. Grow up. Become a man. This is that moment for Lewis."
McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh told reporters on Friday, when Hamilton's three-year deal was announced, that it was a mistake to leave a winning team like his.
Hamilton, 27, has never driven for any other team after being backed from his early teenage years by McLaren - then co-owned by Mercedes - and making a sensational Formula One debut in 2007.
He has won three races this year, and 20 in his F1 career with McLaren.
Coulthard saw the move as a sign of Hamilton wanting to take control of his own destiny, after replacing his father Anthony as manager with XIX Entertainment and moving abroad, first to Switzerland and then Monaco.
"One by one he has moved out of the shadows cast by his father, Anthony, by (former McLaren team boss) Ron Dennis, and now Martin, the McLaren team principal, as well," said the Scot.
"It isn't all about winning. It is at least as much about the journey, about how you act and how you feel within yourself."
Hamilton's move triggered a shake-up in the paddock, with Mexican Sergio Perez signing a deal taking him from Sauber to McLaren as the Briton's replacement.
Germany's seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, the most successful driver the sport has ever seen with 91 race wins, has had to move aside for Hamilton.
"So many questions are thrown up by Lewis's decision to join Mercedes and Formula One is undoubtedly the better for it. With luck Lewis will be as well. This could be the making of him as a man," said Coulthard.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston)
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